UW Health experts warn of potential ‘twindemic’ this winter

MADISON, Wis. – UW Health experts are warning of a potential “twindemic,” due to rising COVID-19 and flu case numbers.

According to UW Health medical director Dr. Jim Conway, flu cases are already increasing in Wisconsin, further straining the state’s hospitals.

“Last year, near-zero influenza rates were remarkable,” Conway said in a statement Tuesday. “But that won’t be the case this year because restrictions are loosening.”

The rise in flu cases come as COVID-19 cases also continue to rise. As of December 19, Wisconsin’s seven-day COVID-19 case average is 3,294.

Last flu season saw only 100 recorded cases in Wisconsin, but Dr. Conway said that a return to ‘normal’ levels would be disastrous.

“If we see flu hospitalizations rise anywhere near pre-pandemic levels alongside this rapidly surging Omicron variant, hospitals will not be able to handle it,” Conway said. “We are already struggling.”

In the 2019-2020 season, over 4,400 people were hospitalized with influenza.

Dr. Conway said the best way to guard against the flu and COVID-19 is to get a vaccine.

“Those hospitalized with the flu or COVID-19 are mostly unvaccinated,” Conway said. “The best gift you can give this holiday season is to get vaccinated.”

Conway also recommended staying home if sick, washing hands, wearing a mask, and getting a COVID-19 booster.