Tis the Season…for the Flu?


The holiday season is the most anticipated time of year. Months before December, people plan out their holiday vacations, and prepare themselves for upcoming fun events. However, this seemingly positive season is unfortunately accompanied by many not-so-positive matters.

This year, like the past, the flu’s presence has hit hard. Beginning by the end of November, the tough flu season has worried scientists and public health experts, the surge in hospitalization putting pressure on nationwide emergency health departments. As the holiday season approaches, these experts have predicted the illnesses to only increase, as a direct result of friends and family meeting up to celebrate.

According to CNBC Health and Science, flu hospitalizations have increased by 30% in just one week, and this percent of change is forecasted to increase an unusual amount this holiday season.

This abnormal increase of illness this year, compared to others, has many inferred explanations. Scott Hensley, a microbiologist and flu expert at the Penn Institute for Immunology, stated that the flu is hitting harder this year due to the lack of immunizations. He says that immunity levels are at their “lowest level in recent history”.

This is mostly because alongside Covid, the flu was not able to make a noticeable impact on the nation these past two years, due to the safety guidelines (social distancing, masking, etc.). This year, as these guidelines have taken a backstage, the vulnerability of people to the flu has entered the limelight, as much of the population has not gotten a flu shot.

Contrary to public reality, Hensley, accompanied with several other specialists, finds that the matches to this year’s flu vaccine and the circulating variants are quite strong. He says, “If there’s ever a time to get vaccinated, this is the year to do it…”. Contradicting the low levels of immunization across the country, scientists feel that this year’s vaccine is the most effective, compared to the recent past.

The H3N2 variants that seems to be dominating the U.S. as of now is most severe for the elderly, further increasing hospitalizations, and proving that this could be a tough season for us. About 11 people in every 100,000 have been hospitalized with the flu since October, hitting the highest level in the past decade of flu seasons.

So, what can we do? The holidays are coming up, putting so many things on our minds: school, gifts, vacation, and so much more. However, with everything else going on around us during this busy season, we must remember to take time for ourselves. The last thing anyone would want is to cancel holiday plans for the flu; so, have some fun, but stay cautious. Keep yourself and the others around you safe, and enjoy your holiday season keeping the flu season in mind.