116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
When Australia catches a bad case of the flu, the United States may be next.
This year, Australia’s flu season started six to eight weeks earlier than usual. The land Down Under has reported 216,725 cases of influenza and 270 deaths. That’s already more than half of the 500 flu deaths reported in 2021. Sentinel hospitals in Australia have reported 1,666 hospital admissions for the flu, with more than 6 percent admitted to ICU.
That’s causing concern among public health officials in the U.S. and in Iowa that after two mild flu seasons, we’re in for a far more severe flu season. And it may start much earlier than a normal flu season, which usually starts in late fall.
COVID mitigation measures, such as masking and avoiding large gatherings, contributed greatly to the decline in flu cases. Far fewer people are still using those measures, so a spike in cases is more likely.
Amid a debate over the safety of COVID vaccines, fed in large part through the circulation of misinformation, flu vaccinations have also declined during the pandemic. Only about half of Americans got a flu shot during the 2000-2021 flu season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Iowa, only a third of the population received flu vaccinations, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.
Health officials are urging Iowans to get vaccinated, and soon as cases are expected to pop up earlier this year.
“A lot of my concern goes toward how people are feeling about vaccinations at this time,” Linn County Public Health Clinical Branch Supervisor Heather Meador told The Gazette’s Gage Miskimen. “The vaccine is not going to protect you from getting the flu, but it will protect you from severe complications. The goal is to keep you out of the hospital and from dying. You never know if it will be your year to get really sick until it happens.”
Getting vaccinated also means doing your part to relieve potential stress on a health care system still feeling the strain of the pandemic. It’s also possible, when people once again begin gathering indoors, Iowa could see another surge in COVID-19 cases. That’s a double whammy health experts hope to avoid.
Getting vaccinated is the best way to avoid becoming seriously ill and placing new burdens on health care providers. Roll up your sleeves, Iowans.
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