HealthFirst Talks: COVID-19 Updates and Influenza Trends

December 23, 2020


With COVID-19 cases, deaths, and hospitalizations rising, what role will influenza play this season? Will all the extra precautions reduce flu numbers? And how is the story of COVID-19 and the flu playing out in practices? Answering these questions and more are three medical experts: Dr. Scott Cohen, Chief Medical Information Officer and Chief Performance Improvement Officer for Bassett Healthcare Network, Dr. John Graham, physician and orthodontist practicing in Salt Lake City, and Dr. Fiona Collins, dentist and international speaker and author.

“A worrisome perspective is hitting millions of cases in just a few days as of late,” Dr. Cohen said.

However, these higher numbers aren’t necessarily in healthcare workers. Dr. Graham shared that a new Journal of American Dental Association study of dentists found a .9% infection rate. “It’s a remarkably low number considering the CDC put dental hygienists and dentists as high exposure populations doe to the nature of the job. It’s a testament to the extraordinary effort above and beyond infection control.”

Dr. Cohen also noted that his organization only has a 2% positivity rate, whereas the general population is 3%. “Even though we’re exposed to COVID almost every day, we do a lot to protect ourselves, patients, and families,” he said.

With all the vigilance around COVID-19 and observation of universal precautions more tightly, this year’s flu season could be less infectious.

Dr. Cohen said, “I’ve seen a few cases of co-infection. We’re looking at data on the flu from the southern hemisphere, showing less transmission. We can follow that trend with precautions but might not if people don’t wear masks or gather in large groups.”

All three experts agree that getting the flu shot is highly recommended. “One thing to consider is that the flu isn’t a mild disease. People die from it, and if not getting a flu shot could lead to hospitalization, and that’s a bed gone for a COVID-19 patient. The flu is much more preventable,” Dr. Collins commented.

Listen to the entire discussion now.

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