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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.

1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Beto plans Texas comeback in governor's race

Former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke speaks during the Georgetown to Austin March for Democracy rally on July 31, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke is preparing to run for governor of Texas in 2022, with an announcement expected later this year, Texas political operatives tell Axios.

Why it matters: O'Rourke's entry would give Democrats a high-profile candidate with a national fundraising network to challenge Republican Gov. Greg Abbott — and give O’Rourke, a former three-term congressman from El Paso and 2020 presidential candidate and voting rights activist, a path to a political comeback.

Texas doctor says he performed an abortion in violation of state law

Pro-choice protesters march down Congress Avenue and back to the Texas state capitol in Austin, Tx in July 2021. Photo: Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

A Texas doctor disclosed in an op-ed in the Washington Post Saturday that he has performed an abortion in violation of the state's restrictive new abortion law, which bans effectively bans the procedure after six weeks.

Why it matters: Alan Braid's op-ed is a direct disclosure that will very likely result in legal action, thereby setting it up as a potential test case for how the abortion ban will be litigated, notes the New York Times.