Roslyn is joined by fan-favorite Dr. L.J. Tan of Immunize.org to discuss the newly coined "Tripledemic" of COVID, Flu, and RSV, and the challenges (and good news!) about the cold and flu season that's upon us.
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The incubation period for flu (between exposure and symptom onset) ranges from 1-4 days and averages about 48 hours. You are infectious during that incubation period and for at least as long as you have symptoms - which is generally three to five days. This flu season is a little different because we haven’t been exposed to flu for several years, so many people who develop flu symptoms are sicker (and for longer) than they might have been a few years ago. The five-day guidance for isolation for COVID applies to flu, as does masking for several days after you’re feeling better.
Yes. There are studies that show that like COVID, up to half of all people infected with the flu are asymptomatic. When that’s coupled with being highly infectious during the one to two days before symptoms appear for those who do get sick, asymptomatic transmission of the flu is a major factor in its spread. There are some reports that those who are asymptomatic are less contagious, but we need some additional research in that area.
We weren’t exposed to the flu for a long time early in COVID so don’t have some of the natural immunities we would normally have. Making things worse, flu vaccination rates are well below last year’s, especially for kids, who spread the flu-like wildfire. And you can, unfortunately, still get the flu if you’ve been vaccinated. There’s actually an amazing 95% match between the flu strains circulating and this year’s flu vaccine. And while it’s still preventing about half of infections, flu strains start to change in very tiny ways once they begin circulating and that allows for infection even if you’ve been vaccinated. If you’ve been vaccinated and still get the flu, your likelihood of getting very sick and needing to be hospitalized drops dramatically. You won’t be as sick, and it won’t be for as long. It’s not too late to get a flu shot!
There are a few reasons we get colds and flu viruses more in the winter. First, we’re indoors in enclosed spaces more when it’s cold, which gives viruses an easier time spreading, especially those spread through aerosolized respiratory droplets like COVID and at least in part the flu. But a new study shows that there’s even more to it, and the cold may actually damage the cells in our nose that create an immune response.