Cold, covid, and flu season? Some thoughts from Dr. C.
Cold and flu season is typically from December through February. This year, 2021 things are different.
In the Northeast, where we live, reports from two months ago were saying that this was going to be one of the worst Flu seasons, although current data shows us that the Flu is the least of our worries. This, as I reported earlier this year is likely due to fewer people doing international travel and the newer strains people are being vaccinated against are not coming to the USA. It is also true that we are getting together more and the current strains are the ones making the rounds rather than new Asian variants.
While it is true that society was getting closer to normal with larger gatherings, less masking, as we breathe the same air, it is also reasonable to assume that the cold season will be more intense this year than in past years when it seemed like every cold was assumed to be covid-19. Most colds were just…colds with many people having them. In November, reports of Omicron which was thought to have started in South Africa but as it exploded here, likely developed naturally in numerous areas and may have been a natural variant of the original Covid-19 virus.
The differences between the original Covid-19 are that Omicron is far more infective but appears to be making people less ill and apparently the wave of infection comes and goes much faster than the original Covid-19.
As we enter the holiday weeks, the infections have affected air travel with thousands of international flights being canceled over the Christmas holiday as people are looking to get out of town for a week of relaxation, with family, or in a warmer climate. Most of these cancellations were but a small percentage of all the flights that go out but if that affected you personally, it was a big deal. Loss of flight crews due to covid infections was the most common explanation with weather concerns being a minor concern.
What should you do now?
Many of you are likely concerned about all of this and are not sure what to do. Do I get boosters 3, 4, 5? Do these vaccines even work against Omicron. Pfizer is currently trialing a fourth dose trial after four months past a patient’s last booster. If these work, how many boosters do we really need? If the vaccines are that effective, why do we need a booster, and if we got covid after we were vaccinated, isn’t that an effective booster. Are these many injections even good for us long-term?
It would seem that under the surface of all of this, the best policy may be to vaccinate the world first before boosters as there are many countries that are under-vaccinated for a number of reasons. This is theorized to increase the number of variants exposing the world to more preventable risks. On the other hand, our immune systems once the antibodies are gone will still recognize and attack anything that does not belong there long after antibodies disappear. This process has developed over thousands of years in all animals and those which were successful thrive many years later. Those that could not adapt did not.
Covid-19 is not a killer virus, but it is quite annoying as it has become an inconvenient truth; pandemics will come and go and we must live through them. Cold season is another inconvenient truth as it happens every year. Masking may help reduce covid-19 but it also prevents our bodies from naturally recognizing and dealing with small infective particles we are regularly exposed to. This is probably the most reasonable reason for the current cold, covid, and flu season.
Since the warmer weather will have people going outside again and the current omicron will likely devolve once people quickly fight it off, vaccinated or not. There will always be another virus, a variant and we will always adopt.
We will get through this season vaccinated or not together. The truth is that cold and flu and now covid is probably a seasonal event our immune systems have the ability to fight off. Vaccines help reduce the severity of the infection and then we move on.
For those of us who are sick of this, that is normal. For those of you who are hiding, everyone will be exposed at one point but society has learned how to treat it and help you move on. Exposure from two people wearing a mask who were vaccinated is likely a non-event. Testing for the virus with at-home tests is likely a reality for the near future as we adapt to living with covid and its siblings.
More importantly, we will all get through this together and move on to live our lives. Happy New Year and let’s look forward to a better year and one with life returning to normal once again.