Indiana doctor says US flu and RSV surges caused by 2-year ‘exposure gap’

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Flu infections are the highest they’ve been in 13 years and hospital beds are overridden with babies suffering with RSV. 

News 8 spoke with Dr. Shaun Grannis, vice president of data and analytics at the Regenstrief Institute, who says one reason behind the soaring numbers is because the past two years Americans experienced what’s called an exposure gap. 

“When people are exposed to a virus their immune system develops a response to that virus,” he said. “When we’re vaccinated our immune system obviously develops protection. During the pandemic a couple of things happened. Number one there was a decrease in the spread of influenza likely due to our social distancing, masking, etc. So, we saw much lower rates of the flu over the last couple of years. There was an exposure gap.”

Social distancing and masking also lead to an exposure gap with RSV, Grannis said, which is why cases are spiking compared to previous years. On top of that many people fell behind on vaccines during the pandemic–especially the flu vaccine–which added to the exposure gap. 

Grannis goes on to say the return on investment of getting a flu shot is significant. Human lifespan is higher now than it was a century ago. Part of the reason, he says, is vaccinations.