U.Va. Health professionals warn of possible ‘twindemia’ – Le Cavalier Quotidien

With the winter season fast approaching, the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks has increased and flu rates are high, especially in the densely populated communities of the University. Health officials warn of the strong possibility of a simultaneous spike in flu and COVID-19 cases causing a rare phenomenon – a twindemic.

Although COVID-19 cases in Charlottesville are downthey are expected to increase as winter sets in. more than 400 dead involving COVID-19 are happening every day in the United States. This number is expected to increase, possibly over 1,000 daily deaths by March if current booster vaccination rates persist, per year. updated analysis from the Commonwealth Fund and the Yale School of Public Health.

The rise of new variants, increased indoor interaction compared to the past two years, and decreasing levels of community immunity lead to increased risk of COVID-19. Combined with high flu rates, the United States faces a viable risk of twindemic this winter, according to Dr. Costi Sifri, director of hospital epidemiology at U.Va. Health, detailed to a U.Va. Health press briefing.

“We could [and] should anticipate a flu season this year,” Sifri said. “We’ve seen a pretty robust flu season in the southern hemisphere this summer, their winter in Australia, for example. We should expect to see that now.

Australia is currently coming to the end of its worst flu season in five years. Flu season started earlier and hit children the hardest. In particular, it is Australia first severe flu season since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“People are back together, [so] there is a much higher chance of the flu spreading,” Sifri said. “There is much less immunity to flu since people haven’t had the flu for a few years. At the same time, there are possibilities for transmission of COVID-19 over the next couple of months.”

The CDC reports that the 2020-21 season has seen the lowest influenza activity on record, which increases the risk of infection, especially among the most vulnerable.

The increase in flu rates can also be attributed to the reduction in community prevention methods. Use of face mask, physical distancing and reduced travel helped avoid a twindemic last year. Now, almost half of Americans rarely or never wear face masks indoors, despite CDC recommendations. The University’s mask mandate has been liftedalthough students are still encouraged to wear masks in public, particularly when feeling unwell.

The experts agreed that a lack of mask use and non-adherence to vaccine recommendations are the main factors behind the high risk of twinemia this winter. If the twin is achieved, hospitalization rates will risestraining an already overburdened and understaffed health system.

Housing and Residence Life no longer has isolation housing available for all students who contract COVID-19, so students should take their own precautions if they become infected. Yashasvisai Veeramasu, a first-year engineering student, is one of many students who have planned to self-isolate.

“My roommate [and I] are actually not far [away]so we have the option to go home if we end up catching something,” Veeramasu said.

Members of the Charlottesville community and university students can still take several precautionary measures in order to stay protected against COVID-19 and the flu. Most importantly, doctors recommend getting COVID-19 boosters and flu shots.

“The best thing we can do to protect ourselves is to make sure we’re up to date with our COVID-19 and flu shots,” Sifri said.

At the press conference, Dr. Max Luna, associate professor of cardiovascular medicine, urged university students to take appropriate precautions.

“Vaccination remains extremely effective in preventing hospitalization and death from COVID-19,” Luna said.

The current COVID-19 booster is bivalent, targeting two variants of Omicron – BA. 4 and BA. 5. The CDC recommends that people five years of age or older receive the bivalent booster if it has been at least two months since their last dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. For people five years of age or older who have recently tested positive for COVID-19, the recommendations allow for the next dose of vaccine to be received once three months have passed since testing positive.

There are many options for getting your flu shot and COVID-19 boosters in Charlottesville. The Blue Ridge Health District offers vaccines in local health services, a mobile health unit, community events and local pharmacies. Independent pharmacies such as SVC also provide these shots.

Boosters and flu shots are also available through organizations on the ground, such as Madison House. Students may make such appointments at any time by registering with the Student Health and Welfare Service.

Most students and staff are fully vaccinated with the first two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, but they are strongly encouraged by U.Va. Health officials to get their boosters updated.

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