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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Influenza cases and other common viruses have been at historically low numbers for the past year due to the safety precautions taken by the public to stifle the spread of COVID-19. But that could change soon.

Driving the news: Experts say the last year and a half, we've largely gone without "boosts" to our adaptive immunity from exposure to viruses, as STAT News reported recently. And if flu cases start to rise in the fall, buckle up.

What they're saying: If the U.S. starts seeing the uptick in flu cases in October or November, "that would be a sign that we’re going to be in for ... a strong flu season," said Andy Pekosz, professor of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

  • A typical flu season begins in late December, early January.
  • "You’ve lost one pathway to immunity, which is natural infection," last flu season, said Ryan Langlois, associate professor in the microbiology and immunology department at the University of Minnesota. "We’ve never been in this situation."

State of play: Already, cases of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, have surged across the country in recent weeks for the first time since the pandemic started as the country started to open back up.

What to watch: Last year's flu vaccination rates were the highest seen in years. If we see an early flu season, the public health guidance to get the flu vaccine will be that much more important and, in some cases, it may make sense to ask individuals who are high-risk to wear masks, Langlois said.

Go deeper

How the Delta variant dominates Mu

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The Mu variant of the coronavirus is something to monitor — as it appears to partially evade immunity from authorized COVID-19 vaccines — but Delta's continued dominance means "Mu is not any immediate threat," NIAID director Anthony Fauci tells Axios.

Why it matters: Sounding the alarm, Fauci says widespread vaccination is a priority to fight the coronavirus and cut down on the rate of new infections — which is currently 10 times higher than where it needs to be.

10 hours ago - Health

FDA advisory panel recommends Pfizer boosters for those 65 and older

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Key Biscayne Community Center on Aug. 24, 2021. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.

11 hours ago - World

France recalls ambassadors from U.S. and Australia over submarine deal

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C), and French ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

France has taken the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after both countries blindsided their French allies with a new military pact and submarine contract, the French Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.

The backstory: While sealing an agreement with the U.S. and U.K. to acquire nuclear submarines, Australia ripped up an existing $90 billion submarine deal with France. That led senior French officials to accuse the U.S. of a "stab in the back."