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What is a 'Twindemic' and Should We Prepare For More Concern in 2020?

Image for representation. (PTI Photo)

Image for representation. (PTI Photo)

In several countries this winter: a flu that is more virulent than usual accompanied by a simultaneous upsurge of covid-19 infections.

You may not know the expression "twindemic," a portmanteau of "twin" and "epidemic," but it is one that will probably be mentioned often in the coming weeks. It denotes a dreaded scenario for health professionals, in which a severe flu epidemic coincides with a further wave of covid-19. A combined phenomenon of this kind would be enough to once again swamp hospitals around the world.

The term "twindemic" first appeared in the columns of The New York Times on August 16. The American newspaper coined the expression to designate a scenario that could apply in several countries this winter: a flu that is more virulent than usual accompanied by a simultaneous upsurge of covid-19 infections. A twindemic of this kind is particularly dreaded by health experts, who are concerned that it would not only swamp hospitals but also overwhelm the medical care system in general.

These fears are well-founded when you look at recent numbers of flu cases. For instance the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported between 9.3 million and 49 million cases of flu in the United States every year since 2010. In the light of figures like these, a twindemic has the potential to cause chaos in hospitals.

Not surprisingly, health professionals are hoping more people will get flu shots for the winter of 2020-2021. Some are even arguing that vaccination, which is usually recommended for certain at-risk groups, should be made obligatory. The United States' CDC has already announced that 194 to 198 million flu shots will be produced this year, as opposed to 175 million in 2019.

It remains to be seen if individuals will be more receptive to this year's flu vaccine campaign in the context of the current coronavirus crisis.

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