ALL NEWS

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

Aug 18, 2020, 4:11 PM | Updated: Jan 25, 2023, 11:56 am
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

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

Exterior rendering of the Helena Montana Temple. Photo credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter...
Mark Jones

Open house dates for Helena Montana Temple announced

The Helena Montana Temple will be dedicated on Sunday, June 18, The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Monday.
22 hours ago
Police siren pictured, eagle mountain police in a standoff right now...
Mark Jones

Boy injured after falling from slide at Rose Springs Elementary School

The Tooele County Sheriff's Office says an 8-year-old boy is in critical but stable condition after falling off a slide at school Monday morning.
22 hours ago
Salt Lake City Police arrested a 31-year-old man Monday morning after he allegedly threatened anoth...
Mark Jones

Salt Lake City police arrest man after road rage incident, involving a gun

A 31-year-old man was arrested early Monday morning following a road rage incident. Police say the suspect allegedly threatened another person with a gun.
22 hours ago
The Utah House has advanced the bill that bans transgender-related surgeries on minors and pauses t...
Aimee Cobabe

Equality Utah supports bill clarifying rules for therapists when it comes to conversion therapy for minors

Equality Utah is supporting a bill adjusting rules for therapists when it comes to conversion therapy for minors.
22 hours ago
Water flows through Mill Creek as snow blankets Millcreek Canyon on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023. Utah has...
Hugo Rikard-Bell

Utah hasn’t had this much snowfall since 2011, according to NWS

The National Weather Service says Utah hasn't seen this kind of snowfall since 2011. The state is currently at 167% of median for Utah.
22 hours ago
Tens of thousands of dead birds are washing up on the shores of the Great Salt Lake. Wildlife exper...
Aimee Cobabe

Thousands of dead birds are washing ashore at the Great Salt Lake

Tens of thousands of dead birds are washing up on the shores of the Great Salt Lake. Wildlife experts say it's all very normal.
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...
Macey's

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
Getting your flu shot this year is particularly important, WHO officials say