Skip to content

After summer, get ready for more-than-just-flu season

While there are still unknowns about the patterns of COVID-19, one thing is certain: the virus, flu, and RSV are here to stay.

A tripledemic sounds bad. Really bad. But was it?

Flu, COVID-19, and RSV were in full swing this past winter, but Northern California health care providers and hospitals managed them without signaling an emergency.

Head shot of doctor
Michael Vollmer, MD

Michael Vollmer, MD, regional hospital epidemiologist for Northern California, reflected on this past flu season, the evolution of COVID-19, and expectations for this fall.

How would you describe this past flu season?

I’d call this season moderate overall.

We saw a peak of COVID-19, flu, and RSV in January and February, and those three viruses really trailed off in April. We essentially had the equivalent numbers in the hospital of two prior regular flu seasons happening at the same time when combining numbers of patients sick from all three viruses.  

Fortunately, we now have vaccines and treatments available to try to prevent all three viruses from causing severe illness.

We have a sophisticated monitoring system across Northern California, so we had an accurate prediction of what was coming during the winter months. Our hospital system experienced a significant strain, but it wasn’t overwhelmed.

One take away is that it’s not flu season anymore. It’s winter respiratory illness season.

How should people think of COVID-19?

It’s a very different picture than it was 3, 4 years ago. In 2020 and 2021, our hospitals were seeing even normally healthy people getting really sick because a large number of people had no exposure to COVID-19.

Today, through vaccination and infection, almost everyone has been exposed, and it’s now a less serious threat for most of the population. People who still get seriously ill from COVID-19 are part of the most vulnerable populations, like those with a compromised immune system or the elderly. High-risk people are more likely to get a serious case, if they were not current on their COVID-19 vaccination.

COVID-19 is still new, so we still don’t know what a “normal” year looks like, making it difficult to predict what things will look like in a year. The virus has an ability to mutate, and we expect new variants to be constantly emerging out of a population that now has increased immunity to prior strains. This is really important to keep tracking from a public health perspective to make sure current treatments and vaccines remain effective in preventing severe illness.

What we do know is that it’s very much established in our community and around the world. People should know COVID-19 is here to stay.

The last few summers we had COVID-19 surges. What should we expect this summer?

Right now, we are having some of the lowest COVID-19 numbers in our hospitals since the beginning of the pandemic. That said, there are new COVID-19 variants out there.  And yet, we don’t expect a major COVID-19 surge in the summer as we have the past. 

Enjoy your summer. Take care of your health, so you are in a better position to weather any illness. Lead a healthy lifestyle by following a plant-based diet, getting plenty of rest, staying active and getting outside. Also use the next few months to address any other medical issues like diabetes, high blood pressure, or cancer screenings with your health care provider.

Getting up-to-date vaccination in the fall is most important. Vaccines are the best defense against serious illness.

If there are concerns about vaccine safety or efficacy, ask your doctor. They are willing to discuss and provide information for your benefit and protection. There’s a lot of information out there, but ask about trusted and credible sources, which is critical now and in the future because we will continue to face these ongoing infectious disease challenges.



This Post Has 0 Comments

Leave a Reply

Comments Disclaimer

Many articles and features on Look insideKP Northern California offer readers the opportunity to share their opinions about a specific topic by making comments. Please do not include any confidential information in your comments, such as personal, medical, or financial information. Comments should be respectful and on-topic. We reserve the right to edit comments as necessary, will only post comments meeting our criteria, and in some instances reserve the right to not post comments. Thank you.

Back To Top

Don't miss out on stories from Look InsideKP
Northern California

Opt in to receive story headlines weekly.