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Flu season picked up late in Oregon and COVID is probably why

After over two years of pandemic threats, health officials say there are more good reasons to lean toward prevention against various viral infections in Oregon.
Kaiser Permanente Northwest
After over two years of pandemic threats, health officials say there are more good reasons to lean toward prevention against various viral infections in Oregon.

As COVID-19 continues to circulate in communities, health officials are seeing something else: A surprising summer surge in other viruses usually seen in fall and winter.

As Chief of Infectious Disease for Kaiser Permanente Northwest, Dr. Katie Sharff acknowledges things are getting a bit complicated. Given the ongoing pandemic and a steady line of transmissible sub-variants of COVID-19, she and her colleagues have also watched as patterns of other respiratory viruses have changed.

Sharff recently explained, “In the past we had a predictable respiratory viral season that would occur October through March or April. And now we’re seeing flu activity in late May this year,” she said.” And last summer, we saw a huge spike in RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) which is a respiratory virus in little kids— in August!”

Sharff said one theory for this is that while protecting ourselves from coronavirus, we weren’t getting exposed to other viruses which can help build baseline antibody levels.

Something else playing a role might be what is called “viral interference.” Essentially, that means that COVID outcompeted all the other viruses until now, allowing for past suppressed germs to re-enter mass populations.

Influenza bombarded parts of the nation in 2021, the depths of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. This year, flu season started late and lasted months later,
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Influenza bombarded parts of the nation in 2021, the depths of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. This year, flu season started late and lasted months later,

Even though 2022 flu season has been extended, Dr. Sharff reminded that practical measures of viral transmission prevention- like masking and distancing- remain the smartest practice, as the new flu vaccine won’t be available in the U.S. until late August or early September.

Oregon ranked 19th among states where coronavirus was spreading the fastest on a per-person basis, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

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