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MI Flu Season May Be Worse Than 2020 Due To Low Natural Immunity

Most efforts to develop a universal flu vaccine have focused on the lollipop-shaped hemagglutinin protein (pink in this illustration of a flu virus).
Most efforts to develop a universal flu vaccine have focused on the lollipop-shaped hemagglutinin protein (pink in this illustration of a flu virus).

As flu season is underway in Michigan, some health officials predict this year’s outbreak could be worse than 2019, the longest on record in the U.S.

The CDC reports about 35 million flu-related illnesses were observed during the 2019 season with around 20,000 deaths. In 2020, widespread mitigation efforts like quarantines and social distancing aimed at curbing COVID-19 brought influenza cases way down.

But this year could be a different story. Michigan State University infectious disease expert Dr. Peter Gulick says less exposure to the flu last year means fewer people developed natural immunity. He says people can’t assume that being vaccinated against COVID will protect them from the flu.

“Not in the least.  And so that’s why getting both vaccines is very important…and what they’re really referring to this season of viral infections is the ‘twindemic;’ both influenza and COVID occurring hand        in hand.”

Gulick says this year’s influenza vaccine is designed to protect against two strains that were prevalent in 2020, plus two new strains.