The emergence of COVID-19 brought a steep decline in another – but common – viral infection: influenza. In a typical year, between 20 million and 40 million Americans get sick with influenza (or “the flu”). This translates to about one in ten people. But chances are, you probably don’t know anyone who got sick with the flu last year – because last year’s influenza season was the lowest ever recorded. Read on to learn more about what experts are predicting for the 2021-2022 flu season, as well as tips on how you can help keep your family healthy.
A full year of infection-prevention practices including social distancing, mask-wearing, diligent handwashing, school closures, reduced travel, increased indoor ventilation, and frequent disinfection of high-contact surfaces rendered the 2020-2021 influenza season practically nonexistent. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), public health and clinical laboratories reported 2,038 flu cases during the season from September 27, 2020, to April 24, 2021. The CDC estimates about 38 million people were sick with the flu during the 2019-2020 season. While low flu incidence is unarguably a good thing, it raises questions about this year’s flu season. Global health experts predict the influenza virus will stick to its regular seasonality, appearing later on in October and ending by April. But with limited data from last year’s flu season, it’s difficult to make any other predictions, especially as the country continues to struggle with COVID-19 cases, which has averaged more than 100,000 new cases per day since the start of August 2021.
COVID-19 & Influenza: What’s the Difference?
Influenza (flu) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by two different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by an infection with SARS-CoV-2, a coronavirus first identified in 2019, and the flu is caused by an infection with influenza viruses. Both illnesses can cause similar symptoms. The CDC notes that COVID-19 seems to spread more easily than the flu and can cause more severe illnesses in some people.
According to Dr. Jason R. McKnight, a clinical assistant professor with the Department of Primary Care and Population Health in the Texas A&M University College of Medicine, “Influenza is typically an infection of the upper respiratory tract, affecting your sinuses, nasal passages, upper airways and so on. While influenza can progress to your lungs and turn into pneumonia, that tends to occur mainly in chronically ill people or those with suppressed immune systems. Most people recover from the flu in about a week.”
While COVID-19 can have similar symptoms to the common flu, it typically affects the lower respiratory tract. Some coronaviruses cause symptoms similar to the common cold, and are mild and clear up in a few days. Others, like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and COVID-19, can be lethal.
Alarmingly, experts believe that it’s possible to get the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. Having both infections simultaneously could significantly impact your immune system and create a host of severe symptoms. As we enter this year’s flu season, experts warn that the relaxation of pandemic safety measures that inhibit the spread of other respiratory viruses (such as influenza) may encourage flu infections.
Tips to Avoid Influenza
The influenza virus is highly contagious, and as we get closer to the onset of flu season, avoiding the illness can feel tricky. However, there are many effective ways to avoid getting sick this flu season. Medical experts recommend the influenza vaccine – though not 100% effective – as one of the best defenses against the illness and its complications.
Additionally, there are several recommendations to stay healthy this flu season:
- Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently with soap and warm water throughout the day.
- Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose without first washing your hands.
- Use hand sanitizer (if soap and water aren’t available).
- Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
- Practice social distancing.
- Stay home if you believe you’re sick.
- Avoid contact with those who are sick.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work, or school, especially when someone is ill.
Fight Germs Year-Round With Vital Oxide
At The Ecology Works, we understand the need for a trustworthy and effective disinfectant that can be safely used around the home, school, workplace, and beyond. That’s why we created Vital Oxide. Not only can our EPA-registered disinfectant be used to clean most surfaces, but it also kills 99.9% of bacteria and viruses, including influenza and SARS-CoV-2 (the COVID-19 virus), without any harsh chemicals, nauseous odors, harmful residues, or alarming safety warnings. Vital Oxide has long been used to combat influenza and other pathogens in homes, businesses, schools, and more around the world. Most recently, Vital Oxide has been used worldwide to help stop the spread of SARS-CoV-2.
During this year’s flu season, the ongoing pandemic, and beyond, good household hygiene means cleaning and disinfecting the same areas you tackle in normal times, though much more frequently now. Studies have found that both Influenza A and B viruses can survive up to 48 hours on some surfaces. Other research demonstrated that a single contaminated doorknob or tabletop could spread a flu virus to 40 to 60% of workers and office visitors within just 2 to 4 hours of contamination. These findings emphasize the importance of good hygiene practices in the workplace and other public areas, as well as the need to go home as soon as flu symptoms begin.
It’s easy to remember to clean and disinfect obvious germ hotspots such as bathroom and kitchen surfaces. But other frequently-touched surfaces need attention, too – think door and fridge handles, the microwave touchpad, railings, banisters, computer keyboards, light switches, tablets, remote controls, video game controllers, toys, phones, and headphones (NOTE: Never spray liquid directly onto electronics - instead, wipe down electronics with a clean microfiber cloth that’s been sprayed with Vital Oxide). Before sanitizing and disinfecting, always remember to pre-clean surfaces beforehand to remove dirt, grime, and other debris. Otherwise, the disinfectant will not be able to work effectively. Vital Oxide can be used to pre-clean surfaces before disinfecting under lightly soiled conditions. Clean and disinfect in two easy steps: First, spray and wipe Vital Oxide to clean, then spray and leave behind to disinfect. Just make sure that you’re applying enough of the solution to remain visibly wet for the proper contact time. In cases where more frequent disinfection of surfaces results in a possible buildup of dry disinfectant residue, a wipe down with a moist towel or microfiber cloth of surfaces that come into contact with clothing (chairs, desks, benches, etc.) will prevent any possible discoloration of fabrics.
With Vital Oxide, you no longer need to use bleach and other harsh chemicals that increase volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in your environment. Instead, you can have peace of mind knowing that you’re using a disinfectant that’s gentle enough to use in all areas of the home while still effectively eliminating harmful germs, including influenza.
- Cleaning to Prevent the Flu - CDC
- Influenza Symptoms Overview - Mayo Clinic
- Influenza (Seasonal) Overview - WHO