What does record low flu season in Southern Hemisphere mean for US?

Flu season prediction

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The flu season is still a few months away, but countries in the Southern Hemisphere are nearing the end of theirs with cases so low in some countries, doctors described it as a “non-season.”

According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), Australia had a record low flu season. There were 107 laboratory confirmed cases this August, compared to 61,000 in August 2019.

While what happens in the Southern Hemisphere can be used as an indicator of what to expect in the Northern Hemisphere, doctors caution against expecting a carbon copy season.

The flu season started in the Southern Hemisphere as COVID-19 was starting to spread, and social distancing measures like mask wearing and staying at home were strictly followed.

“The current influenza surveillance data should be interpreted with caution as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have influenced to varying extents health seeking behaviours, staffing/routines in sentinel sites, as well as testing priorities and capacities in Member States. The various hygiene and physical distancing measures implemented by Member States to reduce SARS-CoV-2 virus transmission have likely played a role in reducing influenza virus transmission,” wrote WHO researchers in an August report. “Globally, influenza activity was reported at lower levels than expected for this time of the year. In the temperate zones of the southern hemisphere, the influenza season has not started. Despite continued or even increased testing for influenza in some countries in the southern hemisphere, very few influenza detections were reported.”

The U.S. Surgeon General briefed lawmakers during the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions about the upcoming flu season, describing it as the most critical in modern history.

“With both COVID-19 and the flu circulating this fall, this will be in my opinion, the most important flu season in our lifetimes, less flu and fewer hospitalizations will help conserve precious healthcare resources,” said Dr. Jerome Adams, Surgeon General of the United States.

Adams said most years, less than 50% of adults get the flu vaccines and said, “the best way to prevent the flu is to get the flu vaccine.”

He recommends everyone 6 months and older get the vaccine before the end of October.

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