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Covid and Flu Fall updates

Fall virus update

Hello everyone,

We celebrated the first day of Autumn last week which is my favorite Midwest season for so many reasons- great fall weather, color changing leaves, apple picking, pumpkin carving, trick or treating and of course, hanging on to the longer days before my least favorite day comes (Fall Daylight savings time).

Now is also a good time to discuss Fall and Winter cold & flu season and figure out when to get the flu vaccine and updated omicron covid vaccine booster (called the bivalent vaccine).

This update includes local cases, omicron patterns, flu vaccine timing and covid boosting timing.

Covid updates

What is going on with covid lately? To answer that, we turn our attention to our poop. Poop (the technical term is wastewater, but poop is more fun to say) holds a lot of information. We use data from wastewater collection to evaluation population health, track diseases and evaluate how much Percocet is being flushed down the toilet. For some time now, wastewater has indicated that Omicron BA.5 is the dominant covid strain the US. Great news... since it’s in the new booster. However, new variants always want their chance to shine- there is another Omicron sub-variant called BA.4.6 which is out competing BA.5. This isn’t too concerning since the new booster contains both BA.4 and BA.5 and the new BA.4.6 doesn’t have enough significant spike mutations to escape immunity protection. If you get the new bivalent booster dose, you will be covered for this.

Getting a third, fourth or fifth booster with this new bivalent booster is a personal choice. Some of the benefits are enhanced antibody production and inclusion of the troublesome Omicron variant that was responsible for the spring/summer covid wave. You can expect the same side effects are the other doses- sore arm, mild flu like symptoms with fever, chills, headache, body aches for up to 48-72 hours. The booster dose reaches maximum effectiveness at 2 weeks post injection and will last 4-6 months (depending on your immune system- for older people, it typically lasts a shorter duration and for younger people who have a more robust immune response, there is longer coverage). Hopefully this helps you with timing the booster dose if you choose to get it. Aim to get it at least 2 weeks before you want/need coverage and expect coverage to last 4-6 months. In some people, it may last much longer, but I am just quoting the typical. In other words, getting it this Fall will protect you through Winter.

Our local covid cases are still looking pretty decent. No significant local death rate to report and no significant local hospitalization rate. Those covid positive in the hospital are there for medical treatment/surgery reasons other than covid but happen to be covid positive. Here are the numbers below:

Lake county, IL:

Testing positivity: 5.4% (may be artificially low now due to home testing options)

Death rate: 0

Hospital bed use due to covid: 3% (large majority hospitalized for reasons other than covid)

Fully vaccinated x 2 doses: 80%

Vaccinated plus booster (3 doses): 55%

Vaccinated plus more booster (4 doses): 44%

Kenosha County, WI:

Testing positivity: 13% (may be artificially low now due to home testing options)

Death rate: 0

Hospital bed use due to covid: 4% (large majority hospitalized for reasons other than covid)

Fully vaccinated x 2 doses: 62%

Vaccinated plus booster (3 doses): 52%

Vaccinated plus more booster (4 doses): 36%

Racine County, WI:

Testing positivity: 8.8% (may be artificially low now due to home testing options)

Death rate: 0

Hospital bed use due to covid: 4% (large majority hospitalized for reasons other than covid)

Fully vaccinated x 2 doses: 62%

Vaccinated plus booster (3 doses): 56%

Vaccinated plus more booster (4 doses): 37%

One other variant for covid is worth mentioning, since it does have immune escape and may end up impacting the US this Winter with a Winter covid wave. That is BA.2.75.2, which could be a name for Elon Musk’s next baby! ...I’m joking… no offense intended to X Æ A-12. Currently it is only causing a small amount of cases but has a worrisome doubling rate and three key spike protein mutations which make vaccine or natural immunity less likely.

Seasonal Influenza:

Enjoy this time because flu season might be dicey this year. Remember how last year there was essentially no influenza? Cases were way down with covid out competing the flu. Looking at our Southern Hemisphere friends who just had their Winter, the flu felt left out last Winter and is ready to join the party.

Timing of the flu vaccine: Pharmacies really love to push getting this over Summer and I feel like it starts getting advertised in early August. After vaccination it takes two weeks to build immunity and then duration of coverage is about 6 months. Flu season runs Oct/Nov through April so ideally to be covered for most of flu season, you would get vaccinated mid-October and be fully covered November to April. You can absolutely get it earlier like pharmacies advertise, but you might want to consider a second dose in Jan/Feb if you get it in early August, otherwise your coverage will wane at the height of flu season in Jan/Feb/March. Adults over 65 get a high dose version because of the whole immune response curve mentioned earlier- the higher dose allows them to get the full 6 months coverage.

That’s all! Have a safe and healthy Fall season!

Jill Green MD

Medlogic Primary Care

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