With the intersection of influenza season, the spread of Covid-19 and discussion of children returning to school, it is more imperative than at any point in our lifetimes for every American older than 6 months (with rare exceptions) to get the flu vaccine as recommended by the CDC starting in September.
The flu shot is a valuable and life-saving public health tool that remains the best defense against an influenza virus that kills and sickens too many of our friends, neighbors and family members each year.
Influenza remains one of the top ten leading causes of death each year in the US.
Add to that the impact of Covid-19: the US is creeping ever closer to 4.5 million Americans infected with the virus and over 150,000 lives lost.
Experts, including myself, believe the combination of both the coronavirus and influenza virus swirling together throughout the US this fall and winter has the potential to exacerbate the strain on an already struggling public health system.
The two viruses cause initial symptoms that are difficult to distinguish, have their biggest effect on the elderly and those with similar underlying conditions, and, at the severe end of the disease spectrum, cause competition for similar life-saving hospital equipment.
While there is currently a reduction in flu surveillance in some regions of the world because a lot of the public health resources are being dedicated to fighting the pandemic, we can't afford to be lax about the upcoming flu season.
As part of the select group of scientists who make recommendations on each year's flu vaccine at the World Health Organization, my colleagues and I look to the Southern Hemisphere's flu season for clues of what will come North.
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