FROM PANDEMIC TO TWINDEMIC: A SPECIAL REPORT

As many kids return to school and more adults are back at offices, restaurants and theaters, health experts are warning of the risk of a “twindemic” of flu and COVID cases in the coming months that could overwhelm hospitals already stretched too thin. According to the CDC, the flu typically infects between 9 and 45 million Americans every year. But last year, thanks largely to mask wearing and social distancing, the flu was virtually non-existent. This year, doctors fear the flu season could come back with a vengeance, exacerbated by COVID variants the vaccines cannot kill. Tonight doctor Purvi Parikh, allergist and immunologist with the Allergy & Asthma Network, and NYU Langone is on call to discuss the threat, the risks and how to identify and manage the confusing symptoms.

TRANSCRIPT

> WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M JACK FORD.

HEALTH EXPERTS ARE WARNING US THIS THIS YEAR'S FLU SEASON MAY WELL BE MUCH WORSE THAN LAST YEAR.

ACCORDING TO THE CDC, THE FLU TYPICALLY INFECTS BETWEEN 9 MILLION AND 45 MILLION AMERICANS EACH YEAR.

BUT LAST YEAR, THE FLU WAS VIRTUALLY NON-EXISTENT.

NOW THERE IS A CONCERN THAT THIS SEASON THE FLU COULD COME BACK WITH A VENGEANCE.

AND WITH COVID STILL A VERY REAL THREAT, SOME EXPERTS FEAR THE COMING MONTHS COULD CREATE WHAT THEY ARE CALLING A TWINDEMIC THAT COULD OVERWHELM ALREADY STRETCHED HOSPITALS.

TO TALK ABOUT ALL OF THIS AND HOW TO PROTECT OURSELVES, ALSO HOW TO MANAGE CONFUSING SYMPTOMS WE ARE DELAYED TO BE JOINED BY DR. PARIK, AN ALLERGIST AND IMMUNOLOGIST WITH THE ALLERGY AND ASTHMA SPECIALISTS.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

LET'S START WITH THAT NOTION -- THERE WAS A FEAR -- WE WERE BEING TOLD LAST YEAR AT THIS TIME WE COULD HAVE A CONFLUENCE OF FLU AND COVID.

IT DIDN'T MATERIALIZE.

WHY NOT.

PEOPLE WERE GOOD ABOUT GETTING THEIR FLU SHOTS EARLY LAST YEAR BECAUSE WE WERE WARN BEING THE TWINDEMIC.

WE ARE WORRIED ABOUT GOING TO THE HOSPITAL WITH ALL THE COVID INFE INFECTIONS.

WE SAW A LOT OF PEOPLE GETTING THEIR FLU VACCINE.

AND PEOPLE WERE MASKING AND SOCIAL DISTANCING.

THAT HELPS WITH THE FLU, AGAIN, BECAUSE IT IS ALSO A RESPIRATORY VIRUS.

ALL OF THESE PRECAUTIONS HELPED TO KEEP THE FLU CASES VERY LOW.

I HOPE THEY CONTINUE NOW FOREVER AFTER THIS.

I GUESS THE FLIP SIDE OF THAT QUESTION IS WHY ARE HEALTH EXPERTS NOW CONCERNED ABOUT THIS NOTION THAT THE FLU MIGHT AS I SAID, RETURN WITH A VENGEANCE?

RIGHT, SO ON THE OTHER SIDE, THIS YEAR, NOW THAT MANY PEOPLE HAVE BEEN VACCINATED, PEOPLE ARE RETURNING BACK TO NORMAL, RIGHT IN SO PEOPLE ARE RETURNING BACK TO WORK IN THEIR OFFICES WHEREAS LAST YEAR THEY WERE STILL WORKING FROM HOME.

PEOPLE ARE NOW ENGAGING IN MORE SOCIAL ACTIVITIES BECAUSE THERE IS A SENSE OF COMFORT AND SAFETY HAVING BEEN VACCINATED.

SO THAT'S THE CONCERN THAT KIND OF THE GUARD IS LOWER NOW, THE MASKING MAY NOT BE AS STRICT.

THE DISSTEPSING SOCIALLY MAY NOT BE AS STRICT.

AND THERE IS MORE HUMAN-TO-HUMAN INTERACTION.

PEOPLE ARE ON PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION, FLYING, ET CETERA.

I THINK ONE OF THE QUESTIONS PEOPLE ARE ASKING IS SIMILARITIES BETWEEN GENERALLY FLU SYMPTOMS AND COVID SYMPTOMS.

WHAT WIND OF SIMILARITIES ARE THERE?

THERE ARE A LOT OF SIMILARITIES.

YOU KNOW, BOTH CAN CAUSE FEVERS, EVEN HIGH FEVERS.

THAT MEANS YOUR TEMPERATURE BEING ABOVE 100.4.

BOTH CAUSE MUSCLE ACHE, FATIGUE.

BOTH CAN CAUSE COUGHINGS, RUNNY NOSE.

THINGS LIKE THAT.

AND BOTH CAN CAUSE STOMACH ISSUES, NAUSEA, VOMITING DIARRHEA.

SOME THINGS THAT ARE A LITTLE BIT UNIQUE TO COVID THE LOSS OF SMELL, LOSS OF TASTE.

WE DON'T SEE THAT AS MUCH WITH THE FLU.

COVID ALSO CAN CAUSE A LOT OF NEUROLOGICAL SYSTEMS THAT WE DON'T ALWAYS SEE WITH THE FLU.

WITH COVID-19 WE ARE SEEING A LOT OF BLOOD VESSEL INFLAMMATION.

THERE COULD BE THINGS SUCH AS STROKE EVEN ACUTE HEART INFLAMMATION AND HEART DISEASE.

IT CAN MIMIC LIKE A HEART ATTACK AND BLOOD CLOTS.

SO THERE ARE THINGS THAT ARE VERY, VERY DIFFERENT WITH COVID-19, BUT THERE ARE A LOT OF OVERLAPS, TOO.

WE ENCOURAGE PEOPLE, IF YOU ARE NOT SURE WHAT YOU HAVE, EVEN IF YOU HAVE BEEN VACCINATED AGAINST BOTH GO AND GET TESTED FOR BOTH.

NOW WE HAVE AMPLE TESTING FOR BOTH VIRUSS.

YOU ANTICIPATED MY QUESTION, WHICH WAS, IF YOU ARE EXPERIENCING THE SYMPTOMS THAT ARE SIMILAR -- YOU SAID THERE ARE CERTAIN DISTINGUISHING SYMPTOMS WITH REGARD TO COVID.

BUT IF YOU ARE EXPERIENCING ONES THAT ARE SIMILAR, HOW LONG -- SHOULD YOU WAIT?

SHOULD YOU TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR?

WHERE DO YOU GO TO GET YOUR TESTING?

WHAT ARE YOU TELLING PATIENTS?

WHAT I HAVE BEEN ADVISING IS TO TRY TO BE TESTED AS SOON AS YOU CAN.

THE REASON BEING IS FOR COVID-19 THERE ARE TREATMENTS WE CAN OFFER YOU WITHIN THE FIRST 72 HOURS OR WITHIN THE FIRST COUPLE OF DAYS THAT MAY HELP LESSEN THE SEVERITY OR MAY LESSEN THE CHANCE OF YOU ENDING UP IN THE HOSPITAL.

MONOCLONAL ANTIBODIES WHICH MADE HEADLINES WHEN OUR FORMER PRESIDENT RECEIVED IT, THAT'S AN OPTION FOR SOMEONE WHO IS SICK, MIGHT BE HAVING MORE SYMPTOMS, AND IT CAN BE A GREAT PREVENTIVE MEDICATION.

BUT WE WOULD NEED TO KNOW IF YOU ACTUALLY HAVE COVID-19 OR THE FLU.

SO THAT'S WHY I THINK THE TESTING IS STILL HELPFUL.

OTHERWISE, A LOT OF THE TREATMENT IS THE SAME.

YOU KNOW, IF YOU HAVE A CASE WHERE YOU ARE NOT HAVING BREATHING PROBLEMS OR MORE SEVERE SYMPTOMS, STAY HOME, ISOLATE YOURSELF, DRINK LOTS OF FLUIDS, THE SUPPORTIVE CARE WE ALWAYS ADVOCATE FOR MOST VIRUSS.

CAN YOU ACTUALLY CONTRACT BOTH AT THE SAME TIME?

YEAH, YOU KNOW, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.

THAT'S PRETTY RARE FOR THAT TO OCCUR.

BUT IT IS POSSIBLE BECAUSE THEY ARE TWO COMPLETELY DIFFERENT VIRUSES.

AND IF YOU ARE VERY UNLUCKY AND HAVE BEEN EXPOSED TO TWO INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE CARRYING THOSE VIRUSES OF COURSE IT IS POSSIBLE.

BUT IT'S EXTREMELY RARE.

SO MORE OFTEN THAN NOT YOU LIKELY HAVE ONE OR THE OTHER.

LET'S TALK ABOUT THE FLU SHOTS THEN, AND THE ADVICE OBVIOUSLY THAT'S BEING GIVEN TO PEOPLE IN THIS SEASON, THIS FLU SEASON.

I HAVE SEEN SOME FOLKS SAYING, WELL, I DON'T KNOW IF I SHOULD GET THE FLU SHOT RIGHT NOW, KIND OF BEFORE THE FLU SEASON, OR SHOULD I WAIT UNTIL IT GETS A LITTLE BIT MORE INTO THE FLU SEASON SO THAT THE EFFICACY WILL CONTINUE FOR ME A LITTLE BIT LONGER AND GIVE ME BETTER PROTECTION.

WHAT'S THE ANSWER TO THAT?

RIGHT.

THAT'S A COMMON QUESTION I GET ASKED.

I WOULD SAY RIGHT NOW IS THE PERFECT TIME.

I GOT MY OWN FLU SHOT THREE DAYS AGO.

SO PLEASE GO OUT AND GET IT.

THE EFFICACY, ACTUALLY SHOULD COVER THE FULL FLU SEASON.

THERE ARE SOME INDIVIDUALS IN WHICH THE EFFICACY MAY WANE AFTER SIX MONTHS.

BUT THAT'S NOT THE GENERAL POPULATION.

SO THOSE INDIVIDUALS ARE ELDERLY FOLKS.

THEY MIGHT HAVE A LITTLE DROPPING IN IMMUNITY AFTER SIX MONTHS.

ALSO FOLKS WHO ARE IMMUNOCOMPROMISED.

CANCER PATIENTS, PEOPLE ON MEDICATIONS THAT SUPPRESS THEIR IMMUNE SYSTEM.

EVEN FOR THEM, THEY HAVE VERY GOOD PROTECTION FOR SIX MONTHS AND MAYBE EVEN MORE.

SO FOR THE GENERAL POPULATION I WOULD SAY GO AHEAD AND GET IT.

NOW IS THE PERFECT TIME.

WE ARE ALREADY SEEING AN INCREASE IN VIRUSS IN THE AIR.

IT IS ONLY GOING TO INCREASE AS WE MOVE INTO WINTER AND PEOPLE ARE SPENDING MORE TIME INDOORS AND TOGETHER.

WHAT ABOUT THE QUESTION OF THE TIMING OF THE SHOT, BETWEEN YOUR VACCINATION OR YOUR BOOSTER?

I JUST GOT MY BOOSTER SHOT I WANT TO GET MY FLU SHOT.

RIGHT.

SHOULD YOU WAIT A PERIOD OF TIME BEFORE YOU DO THAT?

CAN YOU GET THEM THE SAME WAY?

WHAT'S THE SUGGESTION?

ACTUALLY, YOU DON'T HAVE TO WAIT.

AND CVS AND OTHER PHARMACIES ARE OFFERING THEM BOTH AT THE SAME TIME.

BUT IF YOU ARE SOMEONE WHO IS PRONE TO SIDE EFFECTS FROM VACCINES, YOU MAY WANT TO SPACE THEM OUT OVER A COUPLE OF DAYS.

IT IS PERFECTLY FINE TO GET THE NEXT SHOT WHENEVER YOU FEEL WELL AGAIN.

ONE WEEK IS AMPLE TIME.

TWO WEEKS -- THERE IS NO MAGIC NUMBER.

YOU CAN GET BOTH ON THE SAME DAY, WITHIN THE SAME WEEK, IF YOU WISH TO WAIT A WEEK THAT'S PERFECTLY FINE AS WELL.

LET ME ASK YOU THIS LAST QUESTION.

WE HAVE GOT ABOUT TWO MINUTES.

LET ME ASK YOU TO REVIEW WHAT SCIENCE IS NOW TELLING BUS THE BOOSTER SHOT AND THE NEED FOR THE BOOSTER SHOTS AND WHAT THEY ACTUALLY DO FOR US.

YEAH.

NO, ABSOLUTELY.

THIS IS A VERY IMPORTANT QUESTION BECAUSE IT HAS BEEN VERY CONFUSING IN THE LAST FEW WEEKS.

SO WHAT WE DO KNOW FROM SCIENCE AND FROM DATA IS THAT PEOPLE THAT ARE IMMUNE COMPROMISED AGAIN, CANCER PATIENTS, PEOPLE WITH PRIMARY IMMUNE DEFICIENCIES OR ARE ON MEDICINES THAT SUPPRESS THEIR IMMUNE SYSTEMS, THEY LIKELY DO NEED A THIRD SHOT.

FOR THEM IT IS NOT CALLED A BOOSTER.

IT IS CALLED A THIRD SHOT BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T GET THE SAME IMMUNITY THAT OTHERS DID WITH SHOTS ONE AND TWO.

THEY ABSOLUTELY, IT IS RECOMMENDED THEY SHOULD RECEIVE IT.

FOR THE BOOSTER SHOT FOR EVERYONE ELSE, WITH THE PFIZER VACCINE THERE WAS A WANING IN IMMUNITY EIGHT MONTHS AFTER, ESPECIALLY IN FOLKS 60 AND OLDER, WITH CERTAIN MEDICAL CONDITIONS, THOSE WHO WORK IN HIGH RISK SITUATIONS, ESSENTIAL WORKERS, HEALTH CARE WORKERS, FRONT LINERS.

THAT'S WHY THE CURRENT BOOSTER RECOMMENDATIONS ARE FOR THOSE INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE MORE THAN SICK MONTHS OUT OF PFIZER AND HAVE THOSE HIGH-RISK CONDITIONS.

SO THEY EITHER WORK IN A HIGH-RISK ENVIRONMENT.

THEY LIVE IN A HIGH RISK ENVIRONMENT.

THEY ARE ABOVE 65.

AND THE CDC ACTUALLY SAID NOW ANYONE OVER 18 THAT HAS A MEDICAL CONDITION THAT WOULD PUT THEM AT HIGHER RISK.

AND THAT'S SOMETHING THAT YOU HAVE TO DETERMINE WITH YOUR OWN PHYSICIAN.

SO NOT EVERYONE NECESSARILY NEEDS ONE.

AND WHAT WE ARE SEEING IS THAT THE INDIVIDUALS WHO GOT MODERNA MAY BE OKAY.

RIGHT.

THAT IMMUNITY SEEMS TO BE LASTING WELL, ADDITIONAL AGAINST DAELTA.

BUT JOHNSON & JOHNSON LIKELY WILL NEED ONE.

WE WILL HAVE MORE INFORMATION IN THE COMING WEEKS BECAUSE THE FDA IS GOING MEETING ON ALL OF THESE INDIVIDUAL SHOTS.

AGAIN, IT'S NOT A REASON TO PANIC AND NOT EVERYONE MAY NEED ONE.

GOOD ADVICE, DOCTOR, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SPENDING SOME TIME WITH US.

WE APPRECIATE YOUR WISDOM AND YOUR INFORMATION.

YOU BE WELL.

THANK YOU.

THANKS SO MUCH FOR HAVING ME.

©2021 WNET. All Rights Reserved. 825 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10019

WNET is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Tax ID: 26-2810489