HAMPTON ROADS, Va. – For Chesapeake mother Heidi Koski, making sure her two girls get their flu shot every year is a must.
“I try to be the first in line for that flu shot,” Koski said. “I want to give them every protection I can.”
Her mindset may be more important than ever, especially as COVID-19 and its new variants continue to plague communities.
Early concerns of a "twindemic" put some people on edge. Public health experts feared an active flu season would collide with a second wave of COVID-19, resulting in devastating outcomes.
This flu season, however, seems to be bucking the trend.
“All the science comes down to this - we are doing much better,” said Dr. Ryan Light, a News 3 medical expert who practices family medicine. “We don’t see the flu out there. We’re not seeing the rapid strep out there. We’re not seeing the pneumonia that we have seen in the past.”
Dr. Light said measures such as hand washing, social distancing and mask wearing that are meant to help protect against COVID-19 might also be effective against the flu.
“When we look at the flu, it’s spread through contact,” he said. “It’s a respiratory droplet virus that’s kind of like COVID, so as we protect from COVID, we’re going to decrease the risk of flu.”
Flu activity in Virginia and across the country remains lower than usual for this time of year.
According to the CDC, during the 2019 -2020 season, Virginia reported six pediatric deaths from the flu and its complications. A total of nearly 200 children reportedly died in the U.S. during that same time.
Compare those statistics to the start of this flu season in the fall and the number is surprising. Only one child has reportedly died from the illness nationwide.
“Some of the things we’re doing for COVID, it’s helping with some of these communicable diseases that are out there in the population,” Dr. Light said.
In the meantime, Koski is hopeful that some mitigation efforts will be the trend moving forward - at least for now - to help protect her girls until they and others are vaccinated from the coronavirus.
“I worry my kids will not know how to move past this, that at some point will they always feel like they have to wear a mask, or be made to feel that way?” Koski said. “I want them to know it’s okay to go out into the public and to have interactions with people and to hug people and that the world is not scary, always.”
Even with low flu numbers, public health leaders recommend getting a flu shot now if you haven’t already.