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Why is a 'twindemic' more likely this year?

We were able to avoid a one-two punch from COVID and the flu last year

ATLANTA — Fears of a one-two punch from COVID-19 and the flu didn’t happen last year, but experts warn the likelihood of a “twindemic” is higher this winter.

It’s a major concern with so many health care facilities already stressed with COVID-19.

“The last thing we need is a bunch of people very sick with the flu ending up in the hospital,” said Dr. Mark Ebell of UGA’s College of Public Health.

Efforts to avoid COVID also worked to keep flu cases to a minimum last year. Masks and social distancing are not as common now, offering more opportunities for any virus to spread.

Dr. Ebell said our immune system’s break from fighting the flu could come back to bite us.

“If we haven’t been exposed to the flu for 20 months or so, the concern is that our immune system may not be as ready to respond as it normally is,” Dr. Ebell explained.

Ebell said the COVID vaccine will not protect you from the flu.

“The COVID vaccines are really specific to one protein, the spike protein on the coronavirus,” said Ebell. “It’s not found on other viruses. You still need to get your flu shot.”

While research has shown it’s possible to battle a couple of different viruses at once, Dr. Ebell said it’s rare and the risk is low that someone would be sick with COVID and the flu at the same time.

His best advice is to get your shots and stay home if you’re sick.