Getting your flu shot this year is particularly important, WHO officials say

Aug 18, 2020, 4:11 PM
flu shot utah...
A man gets a flu shot at a health facility in Washington, DC January 31, 2020. (Photo by EVA HAMBACH/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by EVA HAMBACH/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNN) — Getting the flu shot this year is important, experts at the World Health Organization said during a news briefing in Geneva on Tuesday.

It appears that the circulation of flu in the Southern Hemisphere — which includes Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, South Africa and Zimbabwe — is low. However, making assessments of what will happen in the Northern Hemisphere — which includes North America, Europe and much of Asia — needs to be done carefully.

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead for Covid-19, explained that the Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System is being used in countries for both flu and Covid-19. This system collects samples from across the globe from people who have flu-like or severe respiratory illnesses to test for viruses like flu.

Many countries are continuing to test for flu, and in the last two-week reporting period for this system, there were almost 300,000 flu specimens tested. Only 37 came back positive for the virus, “so it seems like flu circulation is low.”

This could be for a number of reasons, Van Kerkhove said.

In the Southern Hemisphere where it is flu season, many of the public health measures put in place to protect against Covid-19 could be playing a role in reducing flu circulation.

“I think we need to be careful about making an assessment of what may happen in the Northern Hemisphere for a number of reasons,” Van Kerkhove said.

First and foremost, she said, the systems put in place across the globe must continue to test for both Covid-19 and flu. It is also important that people get vaccinated for the flu when the vaccine becomes available.

Because it could be difficult to immediately distinguish between a Covid-19 infection or a flu infection, testing will be needed.

“It could complicate the clinical picture, but there are tools that are in place for influenza,” said Van Kerkhove. “So it is really, really important than when the vaccine becomes available for flu, that people do take that vaccine.”

There are an estimated 1 billion flu cases annually around the world, of which 3 to 5 million are severe cases, resulting up to 650,000 flu-related respiratory deaths, according to WHO’s Global Influenza Strategy for 2019-2030.

Influenza is one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States annually. From October 2019 to April 4, 2020, the US Centers for Disease Prevention and Control estimates there were as many as 56 million flu illnesses, 740,000 hospitalizations and up to 62,000 deaths from the flu.

Getting a flu shot this year “will save lives,” Dr. Robert Redfield, the CDC’s director, said in June.

Covid-19 hit the Northern Hemisphere as many places were coming out of flu season, according to Dr. Bruce Aylward, a senior adviser at WHO.

A lot of the surge capacity used to manage critically sick Covid-19 patients initially came from the surge capacity available from dealing with the flu, he said.

“That highlights the reason it’s so important to get the flu vaccination rates up this year, even relative to previous years,” said Aylward. “We need that capacity potentially to manage Covid.”

That includes children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot this year.

There is also still a “huge susceptibility gap” when it comes to Covid-19, Aylward said.

“We’re going into a high season for transmission of respiratory illnesses and hence our concern that we have all possible capacities optimized to be able to manage that,” he said. “And part of this is going to be managing flu and managing, ensuring optimal flu vaccination.”


Related Stories: 

In rough US flu season for kids, vaccine working OK so far

Educating and empowering people about the flu shot

Fewer kids getting that yearly flu shot, researchers say

Today’s Top Stories

All News

threats election workers ballot count amendments utah...
Lindsay Aerts

Election threats reported in Utah, as other states still see ‘unusual’ levels

Utah election officials say they are not immune from the threats being reported against election offices nationwide.
5 hours ago
arches reservfation...
Mark Jones

Body discovered at Arches National Park is identified

Ekaterinà Yaroslavna Ksenjek, 33, of Arlington, Virginia, has been identified as the deceased person found last weekend at Arches National Park.
1 day ago
Bishop L. Todd Budge, second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric of The Church of Jesus Christ of ...
Mark Jones

Church leader speaks of caring for the earth at Why It Matters conference

Bishop L. Todd Budge, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, speaks on caring for the earth Wednesday at the Why it Matters conference in Orem.
1 day ago
Two Murray police cruisers are shown...
Mark Jones

Explosion inside motorhome being investigated

One person was taken to the hospital with minor burns after an explosion inside a motorhome Wednesday evening in Murray.
1 day ago
Photo of Roy Police cruiser...
Mark Jones

Breaking: 5-year-old child in critical condition after being hit by truck

A 5-year-old child was transported in critical condition to Primary Children's Hospital Wednesday evening after being hit by a truck, according to police in Roy.
1 day ago
Doctoral student Suzi Creveling talks about her work on the Utah Bionic Leg in the new University o...
Mark Jones

University of Utah researchers unveil Utah Bionic Leg

The Utah Bionic Leg, unveiled Wednesday, was developed by researchers at the University of Utah,
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
large group of friends tohether in a park having fun...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

What differentiates BYU’s MBA program from other MBA programs

Commitment to service is at the heart of BYU’s MBA program, which makes it stand out among other MBA programs across the country.
a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Getting your flu shot this year is particularly important, WHO officials say