Although everyone is at risk for influenza, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have published a new report stating that certain individuals are more susceptible to the illness than others. Health officials have been sounding the alarm for several weeks now, stating that the flu season will be particularly severe. Dr. Jagdish Khubchandani, MBBS, Ph.D., a professor of public health at New Mexico State University, shared this information with us: “According to a new report published by the CDC, adults of color, specifically Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Hispanic, are more likely to be hospitalized for the flu than their White counterparts, but they are also less likely to be vaccinated against it. According to the findings of this study, persons who are Black, AI/AN, or Hispanic are 1.2 to 1.8 times more likely to be hospitalized due to the flu than White adults have been throughout the past 13 flu seasons.”
The increase in instances of influenza and COVID that are expected to occur concurrently this winter has led experts to predict that this winter would be particularly dangerous. According to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, who spoke with NBC News, “We’ve seen that flu activity is starting to grow over much of the country,”, especially in the Southeast and south-central parts of the United States. “Last year, not everyone got vaccinated against the flu, and as a result, many people did not contract the illness. As a result, we are in an ideal position to experience a possibly severe influenza season.”
In a recent news release, Syra Madad, DHSc, MSc, MCP, Senior Director of the System-wide Special Pathogens Program at NYC Health + Hospitals, emphasizes the significance of maintaining proper safety precautions and receiving vaccinations against COVID as well as the flu. “Co-circulation of influenza and COVID-19 is expected in fall and winter, and co-infection, which can lead to significant symptoms and even hospitalizations, is possible. Getting vaccinated is the most effective way to protect yourself from either of these infections. You can receive both immunizations at the same time if you so choose.” Continue reading, and make sure you don’t miss any of these sure signs that you’ve already had COVID to protect not only your health but also the health of others.
The newly released data suggests that the “Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that influenza was responsible for 9–41 million illnesses, 140,000–710,000 hospitalizations, and 12,000–52,000 fatalities each year between the years 2010 and 2020. People who belong to certain racial and ethnic minority groups have, historically speaking, experienced higher rates of severe influenza and had lower vaccine coverage for the influenza virus compared to people who are non-Hispanic White (White). This paper investigates the rates of influenza hospitalization and vaccination over 12–13 years (until the 2021–22 influenza season). The numbers are broken down by race and ethnicity.”
In addition to this, the report used “Data from population-based surveillance for laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations in selected states participating in the Influenza-Associated Hospitalization Surveillance Network (FluSurv-NET) from the 2009–10 through 2021–22 influenza seasons (excluding 2020–21) and influenza vaccination coverage data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) from 2010–11 through 2021–22 influenza seasons were analyzed.” This information
According to the report from the CDC, “Hospitalization rates that were an average of 1.2 to 1.8 times those in White adults during the past 13 seasons were observed to be racially and ethnically disparate among Black, AI/AN, and Hispanic adults when compared with White adults. This was observed to be the case even though hospitalizations associated with influenza were consistently observed among White adults. There appears to be a correlation between these inequalities and COVID-19 hospitalizations. Several different factors are likely responsible for these differences in severe respiratory disease. The immunization coverage among individuals of African-American, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Hispanic origin is lower than the vaccination coverage among adults of White and Asian descent.”
A lack of trust is another factor contributing to the disparity. According to the paper, “Lower coverage rates have been linked to several factors, including mistrust in the medical system, incorrect beliefs about the safety of vaccines, and increased levels of anxiety about their potential adverse effects. As a result, members of racial and ethnic minority groups may have fewer opportunities for preventive health care and may be more vulnerable to developing chronic medical conditions because of the inability to access affordable, high-quality health care. These barriers may include access to health insurance, transportation to health providers, and child care.
Higher prevalences of chronic medical illnesses have been independently connected with more severe consequences of influenza, and it has been established that the downstream impacts of structural racism impair economic stability, housing, and education. In addition, being poor, living in overcrowded housing, and being exposed to respiratory infections in the community are all related to a more severe case of influenza.”
Because influenza is so contagious and has the potential to cause death, medical professionals are advising the general public to take precautions during this year’s flu season. Internist and family physician Diana Lev, MD, who works with Dignity Health Medical Group Northridge, shared with us the following information: “People are not aware that influenza causes the deaths of thousands of people in the United States each year. This illness can strike otherwise healthy children and adults as well as those who already have other medical conditions. Only about 5,000 individuals are thought to have died from the flu in the previous year. This indicates that the majority of people have not been exposed to the influenza virus. There is an entire generation of youngsters in our population that have never been in contact with the influenza virus. We anticipate an increase in the number of patients admitted to hospitals as well as the number of deaths. This flu season, it is important to pay attention to any symptoms you may have and to take preventative measures by being vaccinated.”
Dr. Lev continues, “The flu is an illness that affects the upper respiratory tract and creates a large inflammatory response throughout the body. This response could result in failure of the lungs and heart, the destruction of muscular tissue, failure of the kidneys, and a worsening of chronic conditions. For instance, if a person already suffers from asthma, the flu could exacerbate their condition, causing them to have a severe attack in which they stop breathing. It also makes it possible for other types of bacteria to infect the body, which can sometimes result in pneumonia and sepsis. Both have a somewhat significant risk of death.”
Dr. Debra Houry, acting principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told reporters that “vaccination is the best defense we have against the worst outcomes of catching the flu.” “During my time working as an emergency room physician and throughout my career at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), I’ve seen that the reasons behind inequities and vaccination coverage for people who belong to some racial and ethnic minority groups are systemic and the result of many factors. I’ve also witnessed firsthand how vaccinations can help decrease the negative effects that contagious diseases like the flu can have on our society.
CNN reports, According to Dr. Carla Black, an epidemiologist with the CDC’s Immunization Services Division, “During the 2021-2022 flu season, 54% of White adults were vaccinated, compared with 42% of Black adults, 41% of American Indian and Alaska Native adults, and 38% of Hispanic adults.” This information was provided by Dr. Carla Black. According to Black, these demographics also experienced more severe effects from influenza.
“This report adds to the body of evidence that shows people from certain racial and ethnic minority groups have more severe outcomes at higher rates than White adults,” said Black. “This report adds to the body of evidence that shows people from certain racial and ethnic minority groups have more severe outcomes.” “The findings of this study indicate that individuals of African-American, Hispanic, American Indian, and Alaska Native ancestry were hospitalized with influenza at higher rates than adults of White ancestry over the majority of flu seasons between 2009 and 2022. Nearly eighty percent more black adults were hospitalized than white people, thirty percent more American Indian and Alaska Native adults than white adults, and twenty percent more Hispanic adults than white adults.
The influenza epidemic that has occurred over the past two years has been rather mild due to a variety of factors. These factors include COVID limitations like the wearing of masks and social distancing, both of which have helped prevent instances of the influenza virus. However, because the limits have been removed, health officials are forecasting a difficult season, which for certain people has the potential to be lethal. Primary care physician at Health 1 Care, Dr. Christopher Kang, who is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine, shared with us the following: “It is anticipated that this year’s flu season will be more severe than the previous three years’ seasons because the general public has gradually stopped wearing masks in public places as a result of mask mandates being lifted. Because there has been a reduction in the usage of masking agents, we anticipate that the current season will be more severe than usual.”
In addition, family medicine physician David Cutler, MD, who practices at the Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, says, “It is interesting to note how inaccurate these data have always been, especially because we have been collecting data on flu outbreaks for decades. There is no requirement that states or counties report cases of influenza. Only deaths associated with the flu in children are consistently recorded from all regions of the country. Data on the number of patients hospitalized with influenza as well as the number of laboratory specimens testing positive for flu are the types of information that are gathered by the CDC. In addition, there is a sampling conducted in 122 cities of patients who come to physicians with an illness that is similar to influenza. The comparison of these data from one year to the next provides a rather accurate picture, when seen in retrospect, of how severe an influenza season was. On the other hand, they are unable to forecast how bad an influenza season will be.”