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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.

Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling

Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Starbucks has dropped plans to require that U.S. workers get the COVID vaccine or submit to weekly testing, the company announced Tuesday in a memo to employees.

Why it matters: The company's decision comes in response to the Supreme Court's ruling last week to block the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

3 hours ago - World

Netanyahu plea talks enter crunch time

Netanyahu (right) meets with his lawyer ahead of a court hearing last February. Photo: Reuven Casto/Pool/AFP via Getty

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's opposition leader and former prime minister, is negotiating a possible plea deal over the corruption charges against him, but Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit appears to be toughening his terms.

Why it matters: Mandelblit leaves office on Jan. 31. Negotiations could continue beyond that point, but the next attorney general may be less interested in quickly reaching a deal.