Regional News

Health Officials Worry About Upcoming Flu Season

PORTLAND, OR -- Health officials worry an uptick in COVID-19 could come right as flu season hits. It’s a concern we’ve heard before. But with more people traveling and getting together, some say it could actually happen this winter.

Dr. Katie Sharff, Chief of Infectious Disease for Kaiser Permanente Northwest, says we can typically predict our flu season by looking to the Southern Hemisphere. "They had their worst flu season that they’ve had in the last five years," she tells KBND News, "It was earlier than normal; on average, two months earlier and a lot of impact to school-aged children, which make sense because those are the kiddos who have either been home or have been wearing masks and just haven’t had any sort of exposure to flu virus, so they don’t have that innate immunity."

After two years of virtually no influenza in Oregon, Dr. Sharff says we’re due for a bad season, which could be trouble for an already stressed hospital system, "We just have such severe staffing shortages, we have so much chronic illness and disease and untreated illness." She’s also concerned “vaccine fatigue” will lead to fewer people getting a flu shot. It could all converge with COVID, which she says is still a very real threat. 

She recommends anyone at high risk of serious respiratory complications have a winter action plan, "I think anyone who has underlying health conditions should talk to their doctor about having a plan of what to do when they get that respiratory virus so that they can increase their medications or increase their inhalers to keep them out of the hospital."

As for the new Bivalent COVID booster, Dr. Sharff suggests you talk to your doctor. She doesn’t think healthy people under the age of 65 need to rush out for a new booster. Although, she recommends everyone get a flu shot. 

 

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