WISCONSIN (NBC26) — With the fall and winter months approaching, health experts are concerned we will begin to see a rise in flu cases on top of the already rising cases of COVID-19.
Ajay Sethi, an associate professor of population health sciences at UW Madison, says last year was an unusually mild flu season because many people were still working and attending school from home.
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"Last year was a bit of an anomaly because of COVID-19," Sethi said. "Before we had a vaccine, it was very important that everyone stay home when possible and that schools were carried out remotely."
Now that schools are returning back in-person and many places have loosened mask requirements, Sethi says cases of the flu will likely increase this year especially since like COVID-19, it is easily spreadable.
"With influenza, it also spreads by having close contact, surfaces are really important," Sethi said. "That's a virus that can stay alive on surfaces for a long time."
Since the flu is easily transmitted through surfaces, Sethi says it is extremely important to remember to frequently disinfect surfaces and wash your hands. However, he says the most effective way to prevent the onset of a "twindemic" will be getting the flu shot as well as the COVID-19 vaccine.
"Getting the flu shot is really important," Sethi said, "Just like the COVID-19 vaccines, it can reduce your risk of getting severe flu and being hospitalized for flu."
Health experts are concerned that a bad flu season will add even more stress to hospitals that are already strained by rising COVID cases.
"When we have a bad flu season, you get a lot of people who have pneumonia, who have to be put into the ICU and be put on ventilators," Sethi said. "COVID clearly hasn't gone away, not enough people are vaccinated against COVID-19 to stave off stress on the healthcare system, and with influenza now right around the corner this is going to be a tough, tough year."
Since many of the symptoms of COVID-19 and the flu are similar, Sethi recommends anyone get tested for COVID-19 if they begin experiencing any flu-like symptoms and especially if they experience shortness of breath.
"If anybody is not sure what they have it's really important that whether you're vaccinated or not, you go get a COVID-19 test," Sethi said. "Especially this fall because there's going to be a lot of symptoms similar to the flu like COVID that are going to be present."