After record low numbers of influenza (or flu) infections during the 2020-2021 flu season, flu cases rose in the 2021-2022 season and are spiking in the current 2022-2023 season. From the end of September 2020 to the end of May 2021, only 0.2% of respiratory diseases tested positive for flu. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, flu cases peaked at around 26%-30% of respiratory diseases.
The 2021-2022 flu season saw 9 million flu infections and the CDC is estimating there have already been 15-33 million flu infections this season.
What is the flu?
The flu is a respiratory disease that infects the nose, throat, and lungs. Although the flu and COVID are both respiratory diseases, they are very different viruses that you can be infected with at the same time.
Even though symptoms like loss of taste or smell are specific to COVID, other symptoms are so similar that one of the only ways to tell which virus you have is to be tested.
Flu symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Body aches
How do you get the flu?
The most common way the flu is spread is through droplets made from people coughing, talking, or sneezing into the air. These droplets contain the flu virus that is infecting the person’s respiratory system.
When a person has the flu and wipes their nose, mouth, or eyes there is a chance they can spread the virus to objects they touch. Those objects can be touched by other people that can get infected if they also wipe their nose, mouth, or eyes. The flu virus can survive on a surface for up to 3 days.
How long does the flu last?
A person that has the flu can recover from the infection a lot faster than someone that has COVID. While COVID symptoms and infection can last for weeks (if not longer), a person with the flu is typically able to recover in 4-7 days.
Like other vaccines, the flu vaccine does not prevent a person from getting the flu, however, it will reduce the chances of severe symptoms and complications if you do get the flu. Getting the flu vaccine at the beginning of flu season will help you recover from the flu faster.