Flu season roars back in NJ — here’s what to expect
Last year New Jersey’s flu season was almost nonexistent. This year however, that is not the case.
New Jersey's weekly Influenza and Respiratory Illness Surveillance Report finds that flu-like activity is moderate throughout New Jersey, with 854 cases reported so far this year. In 2020, the state's influenza activity level never went above low. There are three stages of flu activity in the state: low, moderate and high.
“It does look like we’re beginning to see a quote-unquote normal season, similar to pre-pandemic flu seasons,” said Dr. Tina Tan, state epidemiologist.
What type of flu is in New Jersey?
Tan said right now the predominant strain of influenza that is circulating is Influenza A H3N2, “which has been associated with more severe illness, particularly among younger and older populations.”
She said that means “there’s a possibility there might be more complications, more hospitalizations and potential deaths associated with this particular flu type.”
Why is flu back in New Jersey again?
Tan said as we move indoors because of the cold weather fewer people are wearing masks, “but it’s also staying home when you’re sick, that you’re washing your hands, just because you get the vaccine it doesn’t mean that you drop all those measures.”
When will flu season peak?
Tan said “influenza typically peaks in New Jersey around January to February, but it depends what might be going on in a particular flu season.”
She also noted flu season in the Garden State typically lasts until late April or early May, but it can vary.
Is this year’s flu shot a good match for the influenza that is in New Jersey?
Tan said it's too early to know.
“At this time we don’t have vaccine effectiveness data, We anticipate CDC will have some of that information in the next several months,” Tan said.
How do you know if you’re got the flu or COVID?
Tan suggested that can be hard to figure out, especially when you first get sick.
“It’s really difficult to make a determination based on symptoms alone because there’s a lot of overlap symptoms, so testing is often required if you want to be completely sure of what the illness is,” she said.
She pointed out “there are treatments for influenza (Oseltamivir is an antiviral medication) as well as for COVID-19 (monoclonal antibody treatments) and the treatments are different, so it’s really important to see your healthcare provider to get tested.”
Will this turn out to be a bad flu season?
Tan said there’s no real way to know.
“Flu is unpredictable so we can never tell what the flu season will ultimately shape up as until we’re toward the end of the season,” she said.
She recommends everyone get a flu shot as soon as possible.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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