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This Year’s Flu Season: a Repeat of Last Year or a ‘Twindemic’?




Nov. 19, 2021 — The flu, once a yearly intruder that caused the worst annual health crisis in the country, is starting to show signs of awakening this fall.
Experts say it is too early to predict if the country will experience a normal flu season, i.e., a bad flu season, or a repeat last year’s pandemic.
This flu season is beginning to look more like the seasons prior to the pandemic. According to the CDC, flu and flu-like illnesses account for about 2% of all visits to outpatient clinics and doctors through Nov. 13, compared to 1.4% a year earlier. The number of cases so far is in the hundreds, with 702 cases through Nov. 13.
The agency states that although cases are still low, they are on the rise. Flu spread is already high in New Mexico, moderate in Georgia. According to the CDC, there is little activity in the rest of the country.

Despite fears that an epidemic could develop if the number of cases of COVID-19 or influenza rose significantly, there was a dramatic drop in flu cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. Comparing flu season statistics from last year to previous years is quite startling, but in a positive way.
Flu killed more than 22,000 Americans in the 2019-2020 season. The number of flu-related deaths dropped to 700 last year for the 2020-2021 season.
What is the outlook for this year? Is flu a no-show again? It’s complicated, according to several top experts.
“It’s a very hot question, and I’d love for you to give me a concrete answer.” But it’s difficult to predict. Stuart Ray, MD, Professor of Medicine and Infectious Disease Specialist at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore.
It’s difficult to predict exactly where flu season will hit. It seems that the flu season will be worse than last year. However, it is not clear if it will be an ordinary flu-season. Amesh Adalja MD, senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
“There will be flu. But I can’t tell how bad it will get.” We know flu will return. William Schaffner MD, an infectious disease specialist and professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville.

Schaffner said that “we are already beginning to hear about some epidemics.”
Ann Arbor University is the center of concern. Since Oct. 6, 528 flu-like cases have been reported to the University Health Service. The CDC sent a team of investigators to investigate the outbreak. The outbreaks were also reported at Florida State University and Florida A&M University.
Schaffner stated that it is not unusual for college campuses to have outbreaks. He said, “That’s an under-vaccinated population.” Students are often found in close quarters with others. Officials at the University of Michigan stated that 77% of these cases are in unvaccinated individuals.
Predictions regarding this year’s flu season must also take into consideration that mask wearing and social distancing, which were common last year but have become less frequent or nonexistent this year, are now more common.
Despite uncertainty over how the flu season will unfold, there are many changes and advancements in place for this flu season. These changes and advances are intended to keep illness at bay.
The composition of the vaccines was updated. Each vaccine targets four viruses that are likely to be in circulation.
Both the flu vaccine and COVID vaccines may be administered simultaneously.
Some people have received updated guidance from the CDC regarding when to get flu vaccine.
A new dashboard tracks flu vaccination rates across the country. The CDC has an education campaign to remind people of the importance and dangers of flu vaccine.

What’s in This Year’s Vaccine?

All flu vaccines in the United States this year are four-component (quadrivalent) shots. These shots are meant to protect against the four flu viruses that are most likely to spread and cause illness.
The FDA’s Vaccines & Related Biological Product Advisory Commission (VRBPAC), selects the specific viruses each year’s vaccine should target. They use surveillance data, information about influenza cultures, and responses to previous vaccines, to make their selections.
Both the egg-based and cell- or recombinant vaccines will target two influenza strains A and B. You have two options: nasal spray or injections.

Many of the formulas have been approved for use by those over 65, including the high-dose vaccine and adjuvanted influenza vaccine. Each of these formulas is designed to boost the immune system as people age and their immune systems become weaker. The CDC warns people against delaying vaccination while they wait for adjuvanted or high-dose vaccines. Experts say that getting the vaccine as soon as it is available is the best option.

Vaccine Timing

According to the CDC, October and September are good months for flu vaccinations. Although it is best to get vaccinated before the end of October, the CDC recommends that you do not skip it.
Schaffner agrees that even if you’re not vaccinated in December, or January, it’s still a good idea. He says that you would still be protected, as flu season in the United States is most prevalent in February. He stresses that it is better to get the flu earlier.
Children can be vaccinated as soon after doses become available, even in July or August. However, adults, especially those 65 years old and older, should not be vaccinated so early. Because their protection will decrease over time, and they may not be protected throughout the flu season. The CDC states that it is better to get help early than never.
Two doses of flu vaccine may be necessary for some children aged 6 months to 8 year old. Two doses of flu vaccine are required for those who are getting their first vaccination. They should be administered 4 weeks apart. Others in this age group, who have received only one dose in the past, will need to receive 2 doses this season.
Women in their third trimester can consider early vaccination. This is because it can protect their infants from infection after birth. Infants cannot be vaccinated before they reach 6 months of age.

Two Arms, Two Vaccines

Experts urge Americans to get the flu vaccine simultaneously, as millions are now waiting in line for their COVID-19 boosters. Experts agree that it is acceptable to receive both vaccines on the same day.
L.J. says, “You can even do 2 in one hand, spaced by 1 inch.” Tan, PhD, is chief policy officer and partnership officer at Immunization Action Coalition, an organization dedicated to increasing immunization rates. “We co-administer vaccines for kids all the time.”

Tan also stated that the flu vaccine will not amplify any reaction to the COVID vaccine.

Tracking Vaccinations

According to the CDC National Flu Vaccination Dashboard (November 5, 2012), 162 million flu vaccine doses had been distributed.
It expects that 58.5% of the population will get a flu shot this season, compared to 54.8% last year.

The ‘Flu Isn’t Bad’ Thinking is not to be followed

Parents often believe that the flu isn’t dangerous and doesn’t cause serious complications. This is a common misconception, says Flor Munoz MD, MSc. She is the medical director for transplant infectious diseases at Texas Children’s Hospital.
She says flu alone can be dangerous. She says that COVID is a good option because it makes it easier to be concerned. They could become very sick if they get both infections.”
Children under 5 years old are at risk of developing complications such as pneumonia, brain dysfunction, brain dysfunction, sinus and ear infections, and dehydration.
She also warns parents that the flu vaccine, like COVID, isn’t perfect. It provides 60 to 70% protection in a good year. It can also be less protective than that. “If you get vaccinated but still get the flu, you’ll have milder symptoms.”

Anti-Virals to the rescue

According to the CDC, flu symptoms such as fever, sore throat and runny nose, headaches, chills, and fatigue can be reduced by anti-viral treatment. These treatments can only be prescribed and should be started within two days of getting sick with flu symptoms.
FDA approved four antiviral drugs for flu treatment, including:
Oseltamivir (generic, or as Tamiflu),
Zanamivir (Relenza)
Peramivir (Rapivab).
Baloxavir marboxil Xofluza
The drug’s dosage and method of administration will determine how long the drug is kept in the body.

Keep track of flu rates in your area

Ray of Johns Hopkins recommends keeping an eye on flu spread in your area, much like we have become used to tracking COVID rate and then taking precautions like masking up or social distancing. He believes that we may be more agile in responding to risks now, considering the COVID experience.
He believes that adapting these behaviors to respond to flu outbreaks would be beneficial and more natural for most people than it was in the past. “I don’t believe it was common 3 years ago to see people in masks when flu cases were high.”

WebMD Health News


Stuart Ray, MD is a professor of medicine in Johns Hopkins Medicine’s division of Infectious Diseases.
William Schaffner MD, medical director, National Foundation for Infectious Diseases; professor, preventive medicine, and infectious disease specialist, Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, TN.
Amesh Adalja MD, senior scholar, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, Baltimore
L.J. L.J.
Flor M. Munoz MD, MSc, associate Professor of Pediatrics and Infectious Diseases, Baylor College of Medicine; medical Director of Transplant Infectious Diseases, Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston.
CDC: “What you should know about flu antiviral drugs,” “Increasing Flu Activity among Some States, Especially Among Youth Adults,” “Frequently Asked Influenza Questions: 2021-2022 Season,” “National Flu Vaccination Dashboard,” and “Estimated Flu-related Illnesses. Hospitalizations, Hospitalizations, and Deaths in The United States–2019-202020 Season.”
University of Michigan: “CDC on U.M campus to study flu cases”

Scientific American: “Flu has Disappeared for More Than a Year.”

JAMA Network: “Influenza’s Unprecedentedly Low Profile During COVID-19 Pandemic Leaves Experts Wondering About What This Flu Season Has In Store.”

(C) 2021 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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New GR Pharmacy to Serve Spanish-speaking Patients




GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — By the end of the year, Grand Rapids’ Roosevelt Park neighborhood will have a new pharmacy.

Trinity Health Clinica Santa Maria began construction Monday morning on the $1.5 million project. The new pharmacy will include both walk-up and drive-thru services.

Trinity Health Clinica Santa Maria practice leader Kameron Selleck it will offer convenience in a neighborhood that doesn’t have a pharmacy close in proximity, making it challenging for patients to get their prescriptions in a timely manner.

“A lot of our patients do encounter a lot of social barriers in their lives,” Selleck said.

He added that a language barrier can make it difficult patients to get their prescriptions. He said nearly every employee at Clinica Santa Maria is bilingual in Spanish and the plan is for that trend to carry over to new pharmacy and pharmacy tech hires.

“I think this project was announced almost five years ago, so it’s here,” Selleck said. “I just really encourage the community to be as excited as we are.

The pharmacy is at 730 Cesar E. Chavez Ave. SW (formerly Grandville Avenue) at Martin Luther King Jr. Street (formerly Franklin Street) in Grand Rapids. It will be the seventh Trinity Health pharmacy in the Grand Rapids area, with the other locations being Cathedral Square, the Wege Building at Trinity Heath Saint Mary’s, Hudsonville, Rockford, Byron Center and Southeast Grand Rapids.

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Tulip Time Crowds Encouraging for Returning Festivals




HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Tulip Time saw big crowds this year as it returned to a more regular schedule.

The event was cancelled in 2020 and scaled back last year because of the pandemic.

Hot temperatures caused damage to some of Holland’s tulips, Tulip Time organizers say.

The heat caused challenges for the 2022 festival. The Tulip Immersion Garden, a new attraction, had to close early because the hot temperatures caused too much damage to the flowers, Tulip Time Executive Director Gwen Auwerda said.

“They don’t like 80 degree, 90 degree weather. Tulips prefer it to be about 40 at night, 60 to 70, maybe 80 during the day,” Auwerda said.

Heat closes down Tulip Time Immersion Garden early

The organization is working on final numbers but saw attendance return to pre-pandemic levels.

“I do know that the carnival exceeded 2019 by 25 to 30%, so that was fabulous for them and it was packed everywhere in town,” Auwerda said.

Kevin Knight, the owner of Market Zero, said the festival definitely provided a boost as they worked to keep up with demand. 

“It’s a huge kick off to your summer season,” Knight said. “Our fridges were completely full and got completely empty and completely full and completely empty, so it was about everything we could handle.”

Market Zero in downtown Holland on May 16, 2022. Inside Market Zero in downtown Holland on May 16, 2022.

The return of crowds could be good sign for other events coming back this summer, like the Festival of the Arts in Grand Rapids. Mark Azkoul, an organizer for the event that began in 1970, sees the success of Tulip Time as encouraging.

Tulip Time has record-breaking opening weekend

“We’ve been out for two years so this is a big thing for us and for the city to get Festival back up and going,” Azkoul said.

Organizers created the Plein Air event for 2021, which combined outdoor art and music.

The 2022 event runs June 3 through June 5. After taking a break because of the pandemic the festival needs extra help.    

“A lot of people still don’t know yet festival is coming back, so we really want to get the word out. We need more volunteers,” Azkoul said.

People interested in volunteering can sign up on the Festival of the Arts website.


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Mom Does ‘small Part’ to Help Parents Who Need Formula




HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Though there appears to an end of the baby formula shortage in sight, it’s still causing problems for parents, so a mother in Holland did what she could to help.

Abbott Nutrition has announced its entered into an agreement with the federal Food and Drug Administration to restart its Sturgis plant within two weeks. The closure of that plant has been a huge contributing factor to the shortage. The company expects its products to ship to stores eight weeks after production resumes.

But for now, many parents can’t find the formula they need. The low supply has some stores limiting the number of formulas customers can purchase, adding that they are in “extraordinary high” demand.

The baby formula shelves at a Meijer in Holland.

So Caitlin Dampier, a mother of two whose youngest is a 3-month-old girl, stepped up to help where she could.

“I really wish I could help out more, but this is just my small part,” Dampier said.

She got a box of Enfamil formulas that she’s not using because she’s breastfeeding.

“When you’re pregnant, you get free samples and so I thought I would just offer mine for free for mothers who need them,” Dampier said. “I kept it around in case I wasn’t able to breastfeed.”

5 things to know if you can’t find baby formula

Dampier made a post on Facebook this week directed at parents who can’t find formula. The box she received included three cans of Enfamil formulas and two ready-made formulas.

Two mothers reached out to her, including Kourtney Hann, another Holland resident. She’s one of thousands of mothers across the country who have had to go to great lengths to find food for their baby.

“I have had to go to stores maybe 45 minutes away just to even try to get formula,” she said. “It’s very hard to find them where I’m at right now. I went to Walmart yesterday and all they had was Similac and my daughter has a really bad reaction to Similac.”

Hann was able to connect with Dampier and picked up a can of Enfamil. Dampier left the box on her front porch with the message, “Please take only the formula you chose and tear out some coupons for yourself. My prayers are with you during this difficult time.”

The box of Enfamil products Caitlin Dampier left at her door for mothers to pick up.

Hann said she was down to her last can of baby formula which lasts her about five days. Now that she has received another can from Dampier, she’ll be able to feed her 9-month-old for the next two weeks.

“Being a mom is hard enough as it is. You have so many other struggles and to be afraid to know if you’re going to be able to feed your baby or not is a struggle,” Dampier said. “You want to do everything for your kids so when you’re not able to it’s hard. It’s just the worst feeling in the world.”


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