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Ohio health officials expecting surge in flu and COVID-19 infections this upcoming winter

A man receives a shot in his arm.
Brandon Cliffton
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention photo gallery

October marks the start of flu season. It virtually disappeared during the height of the pandemic. But now some local public health experts are concerned there'll be a surge in both flu and COVID-19 infections this upcoming winter.

Last flu season, Southwest Ohio reported 300 flu related hospitalizations. Compare that to nearly 1,500 the season before the pandemic.

While COVID-19 cases have been down in southwest Ohio — along with most of the state with low community infection rates as of early October — some experts are concerned about a surge of flu and COVID-19 for this upcoming winter.

That’s because the measures used to prevent getting sick like masking, staying at home, social distancing and avoiding travel have mostly been abandoned.

Dan Suffoletto, with Public Health Dayton-Montgomery County, said while it’s hard to predict what the winter season holds, the agency is taking measures early on to avoid straining hospitals.

“What we don't want to see happen is hospitals becoming overly full with people who have COVID 19 and or the flu,” he said. “So we're working to reduce both of those numbers. And really the best way to do that right now is to get vaccinated for both COVID 19 and the flu.”

However, reports indicate vaccine rates for both the new COVID-19 booster and flu shotsare lagging.

“They may think that, well, I didn't get sick and hospitalized before so I'm not going to get sick and hospitalized in the future. And they just deprioritized getting that vaccine.” Suffoletto said. “And just because on a previous strain you did not get seriously ill doesn't mean on the next strain you won't be.”

Michael Klatte, the chief of infectious disease at Dayton Children’s Hospital, said the current trend is particularly troubling since very young children can be at a higher risk of catching a severe respiratory infection.

He added he speculates misinformation around vaccines has led to a lot of families being hesitant.

“That unfortunately, has a lot to do with it. It also has to do with how COVID affected children was kind of glossed over or overlooked,” Klatte said. “The focus was more on how COVID affects adults. There really are severe problems that can be associated with children getting COVID.”

Klatte said it’s safe to get both the new COVID booster and flu vaccine at the same time.

“The CDC has stated multiple times that receiving a COVID vaccine as well as other vaccines in the same visit, there's no contraindications or precautions to receiving multiple vaccines at one visit.” he said.

Health officials are now urging people and children to get vaccinated before the peak of flu season between December and January.

Alejandro Figueroa is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Alejandro Figueroa covers food insecurity and the business of food for WYSO through Report for America — a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Alejandro particularly covers the lack of access to healthy and affordable food in Southwest Ohio communities, and what local government and nonprofits are doing to address it. He also covers rural and urban farming

Email: afigueroa@wyso.org
Phone: 937-917-5943