BALTIMORE, Md (WMAR) — COVID-19 has now killed more than 200,000 people in the US. Johns Hopkins doctors are worried about a double hit with the flu this fall.
Right now it’s all predictions. The flu season might not be as terrible because of the social distancing practices already in place, but we also don’t know the impacts, or likelihood, of getting both viruses at the same time, and that’s what worries doctors.
"We’re looking at two pandemics occurring at the same time," said Dr. Daniel Salmon, Director of the Institute for Vaccine Safety at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Doctors are calling it a fall 'Twindemic', when the flu and COVID-19 collide. Because of the drop in flu cases here at the end of last winter and during the southern hemisphere’s winter that just finished, there’s hope this flu season might not be as bad.
"There is some potential that we won't see a terrible flu season perhaps because people are practicing more social distancing and mask wearing," sad Salmon.
But still there are lots of unknowns.
"As we go into the winter, we naturally move inside. We spend more time in smaller rooms. We spend more time in confined spaces," said Dr. Andrew Pekosz, a virologist and professor and vice-chair of the Department of Molecular Microbiology & Immunology.
This could help both viruses could spread more quickly so these Johns Hopkins doctors encourage continued masking and social distancing and getting the flu shot.
"It’s not just protecting ourselves, which is does, but it protects other people as well, especially people who are very vulnerable to the flu for serious complications," said Salmon.
There are also some concerns with testing and diagnosis since both viruses have similar symptoms.
"Because individuals suffering from influenza may think they are infected with COVID-19 and search out tests for COVID-19 with their healthcare providers. It may also cause some people to not seek out COVID-19 tests because they think they simply have the flu when in fact they are actually suffering from COVID-19," said Pekosz.
Some companies are working on dual tests to check for both viruses but they are more expensive and not widely available.
Pekosz said if you feel sick with respiratory symptoms, you should contact your doctor before going directly in or getting tested.