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Is 2022 a Bad Year for Flu Season?

Flu in Minnesota with symptoms

Is 2022 a Bad Year for Flu Season?

It seems as though every year, we end up asking, “Is this year’s flu season better or worse than past years?” With the COVID pandemic sitting at the front of everyone’s minds, we’re even more curious. How about other viruses–is 2022 going to be a bad year for flu season?


At GatherWell, we test for the flu in addition to COVID and other conditions. We do this through our easy and convenient drive-through testing centers in Minnesota. Our staff has front-row seats to the 2022 flu season. While the 2022 flu season is still early, we can rely on national data and current testing rates to determine whether 2022 is a bad year for flu compared to other years.


What Makes for a Bad Flu Season?

In general, flu season sees its peak case numbers from December through March. The number of cases can vary widely due to variations and mutations in flu viruses, and this means that the typical year will see between 10 million to 40 million flu cases nationwide. Put another way, 3% to 11% of Americans get the flu every year.


A bad flu season generally means that 35 million to 40 million Americans will come down with the flu.


However, the total number of cases isn’t the only factor that determines whether a flu season is bad or not. Hospitalizations and deaths also play a role in the data. If 40 million people just get the sniffles, then we might not consider this a bad flu season. 


Relying on data from the CDC, we see that the average flu season sees approximately 400,000 hospitalizations and 30,000 deaths. Anything above these numbers could be considered a bad season.


Data averages for flu season:


  • Total cases – 25 million
  • Hospitalizations – 400,000
  • Deaths – 30,000


Is the 2022 Flu Season Supposed to be Bad?

Experts are saying that Minnesota and the rest of America might be in for a long flu season. Research suggests that the number of flu cases could be higher than average. Why?


First, scientists have seen the flu spread quickly in the Southern Hemisphere, which experiences winter during our summers. Countries like Australia have seen high numbers of flu cases, which means this year’s flu strain has likely become more contagious. 


Second, many of us have been underexposed to the flu because of recent COVID protocols. Since 2020, people have been more careful about going outside with flu-like symptoms and have taken greater precautions to stay safe. But that means our immune systems haven’t had to fight off the flu, which leaves us vulnerable to more severe infections if they do occur.


Is 2022 supposed to be a bad winter for COVID?

Scientists also point to a few indications that COVID could be high this winter as well. As we’ve seen in the headlines, the COVID virus can mutate rapidly. A few strains are developing that could prove contagious. In general, these highly-contagious strains are less severe, so we may see a large number of cases with minimal symptoms. However, the best practice is to treat symptoms seriously and isolate if you have COVID. 


Over the past year, COVID restrictions have been largely eliminated. Few places require masking, and workplaces are less strict about keeping people home for the necessary isolation period. This could lead to increased spread of the disease in Minnesota and other states. 


How to Protect Yourself from the Flu and COVID this year

If you are able to get vaccines, you should visit your local pharmacy or doctor’s office to receive an annual flu shot. Millions of people safely receive flu shots every year. By getting a flu shot, you can avoid getting sick while preventing the flu from spreading through our communities. 


Testing is another step you can take to stay safe. At GatherWell, we provide same-day testing for both flu and COVID. Simply sign up for a test online, show up, and receive your results within 48 hours. Some tests come back with results in fewer than 60 minutes! 


GatherWell exists to help Minnesotans stay healthy and do what matters most to them. Nobody wants to spend the holidays and precious vacation time sniffling and wondering what’s causing their symptoms. Get tested, keep your loved ones safe, and get back to feeling your best.


Schedule a flu test at any one of our Minneapolis locations.