If you’ve had a few fall or winter assignments as a traveling clinician, you’re likely no stranger to seasonal sniffles and coughs. Cold and flu season comes in full force each year, and this year is no exception. With another rising wave of influenza and Covid-19 variants, we may have entered what most call a “twindemic.”
What is a twindemic?
A twindemic is an overlapping surge of both Covid-19 and influenza, creating a twin pandemic. Each year, the potential for a twindemic looms, but Covid precautions have majorly helped suppress flu activity. Already struggling with the impact of one pandemic, both viruses affecting patient populations would put a severe strain on clinicians and overwhelm health systems everywhere. This would impact patient care in all areas, whether it’s treatment for a virus or a broken bone.
How is this year different than previous years?
Over the last few years, Covid-related precautions like social distancing, staying home, and masking have helped slow the spread of flu activity, contributing to historically low rates of influenza and other respiratory virus transmissions.
This year is different. Mask mandates are lifted, public gatherings are in full swing again, and people are returning to pre-pandemic lives, increasing the risk of higher flu and Covid activity.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that flu causes between 140,00 and 710,000 hospitalizations annually. And each year, experts look at signs from the southern hemisphere, where flu season hits earlier than the U.S., to help predict what to expect each year. At the moment, all signs point to a pretty significant respiratory illness season.
How can healthcare travelers prepare?
Unfortunately, traveling clinicians are regularly exposed to both viruses. And although the severity of an epidemic and impact can depend on the region you are traveling to, it’s always a good idea to brush up on best practices to keep yourself safe and healthy on assignment.
- Check flu trends in your destination before you head out: As you cross your T’s and dot your I’s before your next winter assignment, take some time to check current Covid and flu statistics in your new area. Staying up to date on this info can help you mentally prepare for high twindemic levels at your new facility. You can also regularly check with the CDC for maps of current Covid and flu activity or helpful resources specifically for healthcare professionals.
- Get vaccinated: The CDC states that vaccination is the best defense against these viruses. Nowadays, getting your flu shots and Covid boosters at your nearest drug store is easier than ever. If you’re considering a vaccination or two, the FDA advises receiving your vaccine up to two weeks before traveling.
- Prioritize your health: It can be harder to manage flu and Covid precautions during travel assignments. You can’t just not touch things throughout the day. Unwanted bacteria could be hiding anywhere, from airplanes and rental cars to the knobs, handles, and switches you use daily. But there are easy actions you can take throughout the day, like keeping hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes at the ready, avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, or knowing when you’re too high risk to take an assignment. Keeping these and other excellent germ-conscious best practices top of mind will help you remain your healthiest self for you and your patients.
The U.S. is getting closer and closer to a twindemic with each flu season. Great travel nurses and allied health professionals like you can play a significant role in helping patients, colleagues, and others prevent illness and protect the vulnerable. It takes a village to deliver exceptional care, and we’re glad you’re part of ours!
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