SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — As we approach what medical experts are considering the first typical flu season in almost two years, researchers believe this year could be the start of a new trend.

According to Joel Wertheim, a Medical Associate Professor at the University of California - San Diego, COVID-19 has actually progressed out of a pandemic stage and is now classified as an endemic. Therefore, San Diegans could see COVID-19 and the flu exist in the same seasons.

Professor Wertheim says that an endemic is when a virus or pathogen can be experienced at all times, at low levels—However, the endemic definition does not mean it is no longer serious.

“I don’t think even with everyone vaccinated, COVID is going to turn into an illness that can just be ignored," said Professor Wertheim.

Professor Wertheim says the reason is that the coronavirus can take new forms, as seen with the Delta variant. He believes we could see different, more aggressive variants in the future.

The best way to explain it is to compare it to the flu.

“All of the global diversity of influenza turns over as it re-adapts to humans and begins to reinfect us again, which is why you need a flu shot every year and you can get re-infected with flu in just a few years. The rise in COVID variants suggests that similar dynamics may be happening."

And much like the flu, COVID could have a season where cases rise, that may overlap with flu season.

“It can take a little while for a new virus to get into that seasonal cycle," said Professor Wertheim.

"So you would not have seen that in the last year or two years, but that does not mean that that is not where this disease is heading.”

As for this year, Professor Wertheim says it could be tricky.

“Not only does it mean more people are sick and potentially in the hospital, but also needing to differentiate between the flu and COVID-19. I think a lot more people are going to be getting flu tests than in years past.”

From July 2021, until last week, the county has reported 257 flu cases.

In just two weeks between, October 24 to November 6, the county had over 7,000 COVID cases.

Professor Wertheim says this showed an endemic can still wreak havoc.

"As it stands now COVID-19 is still a whole lot worse than the flu and there is currently a whole lot more of it in San Diego.”

Professor Wertheim says that we have not had a bad flu season in roughly two years. He expressed that even though right now, there are more COVID cases than flu cases in the county, he expected flu case numbers to increase as we approach the holidays.

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