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FLUVID: Flattening The Flu Curve During A Coronavirus Pandemic

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The worst time of the year for viruses is at our doorstep. During the winter there are surges in adenoviruses, respiratory syncytial viruses —  more commonly known as RSV — mild coronaviruses that cause colds, basically all the cold and flu-like illnesses you’d expect when the weather turns cold. And, of course, the actual flu, which can be an efficient killer in its own right.

On this week's Petrie Dish, we explore what to expect in a flu season during a pandemic. The flu kills tens of thousands of Americans every year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the flu killed more than 30,000 Americans during the 2018–2019 flu season; the year prior, it killed 60,000 people.

With COVID-19, which has killed nearly 190,000 Americans since the first death was reported in February, there's the potential for an unimaginable health crisis. How can we all help to prevent it?

We’ve heard a lot of talk over the last several months about a second wave of COVID-19 crashing over the country during flu season. In this episode, we talk with Dr. Drew Harris, a population health analyst and an assistant professor at Thomas Jefferson University, about how COVID-19 and the flu surge and spread in similar ways.

If virus and influenza infection rates increase in tandem, how will hospitals keep up? We talked to Dr. Ralph Riviello, Chair of Emergency Medicine at UT Health San Antonio and University Hospital, about how they're preparing.

According to Dr. Jean Patterson, virologist at Texas Biomedical Research Institute, flu season in the southern hemisphere was mild this year, since residents of those countries strictly adhered to pandemic precautions.

What can be done to mitigate the spread of the flu and COVID-19? What is the best-case scenario? And the worst? All that and more on this week's Petrie Dish.

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Reported and Produced by: Bonnie Petrie and Dominic Anthony Walsh

Sound Design and Music: Jacob Rosati

Executive Producer: Fernanda Camarena 

Host: Bonnie Petrie 

Digital Producer: Kathleen Creedon

TPR News Director: Dan Katz

This podcast is a production of Texas Public Radio, which was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.

Dominic Anthony Walsh can be reached at Dominic@TPR.org and on Twitter at @_DominicAnthony
Fernanda Camarena is a veteran of the public radio programs Latino USA and Reveal. She is a senior editor for The Texas Newsroom.