BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Just when you thought we were safe from the dreaded “tripledemic” of COVID, influenza and RSV, some local medical experts are seeing a handful of flu cases creeping back up.
According to the CDC’s flu tracking data, select spots around the country are also seeing a small uptick of cases in the last month.
“We’ve had some people calling in and saying, ‘I just feel kind of achy, I’ve got headaches, I just don’t feel well,’ so we swab them, and half the time it’s flu and half the time it’s covid,” said Dr. Colleen Donohue, chief medical officer of Ascencion Medical Group.
Donohoe said she’s seen a small spike in both flu and covid in her patients over the last few weeks but no RSV in a while.
In the last few flu seasons, there were record low cases, thanks largely to covid safety protocols now no longer in place. Even though the flu peaks in winter, Donohue added it’s not unheard of for flu cases to linger all the way into late spring and even summer in a regular year.
“[This time of year] there are family gatherings, there are graduations, there’s parties. The weather has gotten nice. We’re getting together with more people, so the more people you have around, the higher chances of getting sick with something,” Donohue said.
Dr. Wes Stubblefield, district medical officer for the Alabama Department of Public Health, confirmed that there are still flu cases circulating across the state, but he made it clear there hasn’t been a major outbreak since January.
According to the latest Alabama weekly influenza report, 143 people have died of the flu in the state this season — four of them children.
“We’ll continue to monitor,” Stubblefield said.
However, he revealed there is one small encouragement. The flu they’re reporting right now is the influenza B strain, which is less severe than the influenza A strain prevalent in the fall.
Both Stubblefield and Donohue stressed that it’s not too late to get a flu shot, especially if you have an underlying condition, such as asthma, severe allergies or a history of smoking.
“In general, influenza A has worse symptoms as compared to influenza B. There are just different types of virus, and the B types are general milder illnesses, but both can cause severe disease. It’s just more likely for A to do that,” Stubblefield said.