Influenza (Flu) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. As we approach flu season with concurrent positive COVID-19 cases within our community, the infection control team at Brooks-TLC Hospital System, Inc. (BTLC) reminds us it is extremely important to remain vigilant about taking precautions to keep ourselves and our loved ones healthy.
Get your flu shot.
In this context, getting a flu vaccination will be more important than ever this year. For the upcoming flu season, flu vaccination will be very important because it can help reduce the overall impact of respiratory illnesses on the population and thus lessen the resulting burden on the healthcare system during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends all people 6 months and older get a yearly flu vaccine. Community members can get the flu vaccine by contacting their primary care physician, or it is typically available in pharmacies. “This year, the public should be especially proactive”, states Theresa Schrantz, BTLC employee health coordinator. She adds, “People should get it as soon as it becomes available.”
When is flu season?
Flu season is declared by the County Department of Health once flu is prevalent in the area. It generally peaks between December and February. Because it takes a few weeks to build immunity – the earlier the vaccine is received the better – but community members can get the vaccine any time throughout the season.
Is it possible have flu and COVID-19 at the same time?
Yes. It is possible have flu (as well as other respiratory illnesses) and COVID-19 at the same time. Experts are still studying how common this can be. Further, those who contract COVID-19, who are already compromised by flu, may have a higher risk of complications and worse symptoms.
According to Lisa Barone, BTLC director of infection control, “There’s definitely concern about the flu overlapping with COVID, but it’s hard to know how COVID-19 will mix with flu season at this time.” Health care experts hope ongoing measures for reducing COVID transmission will also reduce flu transmission.
What can I do to help stop the spread of both viruses?
The infection prevention team at BTLC recommend preventing and slowing transmission of infection by any virus, to do the following:
Wear a mask/face covering per New York State guidelines;
Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, or clean them with alcohol-based hand rub.
Maintain at least six feet distance between you and other people.
Avoid touching your face.
Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
Stay home if you feel unwell.
Refrain from smoking and other activities that weaken the lungs.
Practice physical distancing by avoiding unnecessary travel and staying away from large groups of people.
For information on getting your yearly flu vaccine, contact your health care provider.
*Excerpted in part from www.cdc.gov/flu