The U.S. could face a potentially severe season of respiratory viruses this winter, according to an analysis from Reckitt’s Lysol Pro Solutions in partnership with BlueDot Inc. The research suggests that the nation could expect a significant incidence of the flu and COVID-19. Coupled with new surges in other respiratory viruses, such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), this is likely to place a significant strain on the U.S. medical system.
“We are in unprecedented times with rebounding flu cases and other infections, the continued prevalence of COVID, and relaxed pandemic precautions,” said Dr. Andrea Thomas, Director, Epidemiology at BlueDot. “COVID-19 still burdens healthcare systems, and evidence indicates that the U.S. is likely to widely face pre-pandemic levels of flu this winter as we’ve already seen in countries in the southern hemisphere.
“Adding further complexity is the inconsistent and abnormal flu season periods that we saw over the summer in the U.S. and in many countries globally, which makes it difficult to anticipate and respond,” Thomas continued. “It’s important that everyone — both businesses and citizens — play a role in helping to combat the spread of respiratory diseases. One of many ways everyone can help to protect their communities is by upholding good hygiene practices as we head into what is likely to be a very challenging fall and winter.”
Findings from the analysis include:
Rebound In Flu Combined With COVID-19 Will Place Strain On Medical Systems
- Flu cases will likely return to similar levels as those observed prior to the pandemic, while the country continues to contend with the burden of COVID-19.
- Combined hospitalizations from COVID-19 and flu are likely to be significantly higher than the entirety of hospitalizations from flu in a typical pre-pandemic year.¹
- Stress on the U.S. medical system is likely to be exceptionally high as a result of not only flu and COVID-19, but also a resurgence of other respiratory pathogens such as RSV, rhinovirus, etc.
“We are in unprecedented times with rebounding flu cases and other infections, the continued prevalence of COVID, and relaxed pandemic precautions.”
— Dr. Andrea Thomas, Director, Epidemiology, BlueDot
Unpredictable Peaks Challenge Preparedness For Outbreaks
- U.S. likely to experience unusually timed peaks in hospitalizations from flu and COVID-19.²
- The unpredictability in timing of the flu season makes it more challenging to plan when to conduct vaccination campaigns to help protect most people. This also necessitates the need for continued caution because of both the likely severity of the season, and uncertainty of when flu is likely to peak.
Relaxing Of Pandemic Rules Will Compound The Problem
- COVID-19 precautions continue to be relaxed and, as indoor gatherings increase in winter due to colder weather, we can expect to see a combined resurgence of COVID-19 and flu cases this year.
- Continued increase in air ravel following the pandemic is likely to increase the spread of both cold and flu as well as COVID-19.
The findings underscore the importance of hygiene as the foundation for health in all settings, including businesses. A host of precautionary measures can be put in place to help combat the severity of the impact of the flu and COVID-19, including avoiding close contact with people who are sick, covering coughs and sneezes, improving air filtration, cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch surfaces that are likely to be contaminated with viruses that cause flu, and practicing good hand hygiene.
“U.S. businesses are likely to be hit hard by the impact of a severe respiratory virus season, impacting worker productivity. Businesses play a key role in helping prevent the transmission of the viruses that cause flu and COVID-19,” said Julie McKinney, Director of Research and Development at Reckitt’s Lysol Pro Solutions. “It is relatively easy to catch a cold or the flu in a business environment. If an infected person enters a business environment, there is a risk they will infect those around them, such as co-workers or customers via airborne transmission and droplets, or that they will contaminate a surface that will then be touched by another person.”
¹ On a single day in July 2022, at the peak of Australia’s most recent wave of COVID-19, combined hospitalizations from COVID-19 and flu were 42% higher than the entirety of hospitalizations from flu in 2019. While most the burden is from COVID-19, the additional effect of flu has not been trivial.
² The U.S. flu season has started, and several states including California, Washington, New Mexico and Hawaii are already seeing rising flu cases with unusually timed peaks. It is reasonable to expect that the timing of flu peaks throughout the rest of this season will be similarly unpredictable.