Dr. Fauci Says This Is the "Worst-Case Scenario" With COVID

The annual arrival of flu season could create a deadly overlap with the current COVID pandemic.

The global coronavirus pandemic is shaping up to be one of the deadliest events in history, with over 783,000 deaths recorded worldwide as of Aug. 19. But even as people continue to reel from the tragic loss of lives, economic hardships, and lingering uncertainty of what's to come, another annual event is approaching that could make a catastrophic situation even worse. According to the nation's top medical advisor, Anthony Fauci, MD, the combination of COVID with the arrival of flu season could be about as bad a scenario as it can get.

"The worst-case scenario is we have a very active flu season that overlaps with the respiratory infection of COVID-19," Fauci told the American College of Cardiology in a recent interview. "Worst-case because that would really complicate matters from a diagnostic standpoint, from a therapeutic standpoint, and the standpoint of putting a lot of stress on the health care system."

Despite the fact that overwhelmed and short-staffed medical facilities are becoming increasingly common due to COVID-19 surges across the U.S., the seasonal flu has been known to create similar issues on its own. The flu season of 2017-2018 was severe enough to require a national shuffling of healthcare workers to cover shifts and the use of outdoor tents to house patients overflowing from hospitals, Scientific American reports. According to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) figures, about 61,000 patients are estimated to have died after contracting the flu that season.

A man wrapped in a blanket sits on the couch blowing his nose with flu symptoms, as flu season overlaps with the coronavirus pandemic

However, some experts point out that the tragic effects of the coronavirus pandemic may have at least one silver lining: Because of the increased care we've taken to socially distance, wash our hands, and wear face masks, the flu may not wreak the same havoc it normally would.

For example, after lockdown measures were enacted in Europe, Reuters reports that instances of patients admitted to intensive care units with the flu across 11 countries dropped by half. And in the Southern Hemisphere, which is currently in the midst of its flu season, countries like Australia have seen the flu all but wiped out, reporting an incredible drop in cases from 22,047 during the last two weeks of June in 2019 to just 85 laboratory-confirmed cases this year.

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Still, top medical advisors in the U.S. are suggesting that the country prepare for the worst by encouraging as many people as possible to get a flu vaccine. "When the flu vaccine becomes available, make sure you get vaccinated so that you could at least blunt the effect of one of those two potential respiratory infections," Fauci told MarketWatch in a July interview. And for more advice from Fauci, check out Dr. Fauci Wants You to Avoid Doing These 9 Things Right Now.

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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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