Why do we need to worry about flu season?

Staying Safe Vaccines

Amanda from Vermont asks: Why do we need to worry about flu season? Won’t our COVID safety measures also protect us from flu?

A: You’re right that the same precautions will protect you from COVID-19 and influenza, but the fact that COVID-19 cases are still on the rise in the United States means that not everyone is wearing masks, distancing, and taking the other precautions necessary. Some people can’t due to their job or school; and others just won’t.

Epidemiologists and the specialists who worry about hospital resource thresholds are concerned about facing a double epidemic this Fall: COVID-19 and influenza season at the same time.
Flu season is always bad news, but this season will be particularly hard to cope with. Influenza remains among the most serious infectious diseases that we routinely face in developed countries. Influenza kills between 30,000 and 60,000 people each year in the United States alone, and hospitalizes hundreds of thousands.

Those hospital beds, medical staff, personal protective equipment, and respirators are still in high demand, and we can’t afford to spend them on something preventable. “The worst-case scenario is that a surge in COVID-19 cases this winter fills ICUs so that even a mild flu season would overwhelm hospitals – not to mention leaving less capacity for patients needing intensive care from traffic accident injuries or heart attacks.” says this brief from UC San Francisco on the particular need to prevent flu this year.

Another reason to get your flu shot is that influenza and COVID-19 have overlapping clinical presentations and symptom lists, to a point. These include fever, body aches, dry cough, and fatigue.
We hope you don’t, but if you do come down with the shared symptoms of COVID-19 and influenza, wouldn’t you rather know that you’ve had your flu vaccine? Wouldn’t your doctor want to know?

So even if you are doing everything you can to protect yourself from COVID-19, get your flu shot to help reduce the system-wide risk that we’ll face a dual epidemic. And do it for your own peace of mind, in case you’re unlucky enough to come down with a fever and body aches sometime this season.

The best time to get your flu shot in the Northern hemisphere is right now: late September to early October.

Flu shots are often available at no cost at pharmacies and larger employers. Pick up the phone, call your nearest pharmacy and ask for an appointment!

Thanks to Julie from Iowa, Amanda from Oregon, and Katrina from California for the related questions!

Link to original FB post