Influenza Season - Why Experts Say a Flu Vaccine Is 'Very, Very Important' This Year

Pandemic life has forced all of us to be hypervigilant about our hygiene practices. From mask wearing and hand washing to lockdowns and social distancing, we’ve changed our behavior in order to slow the spread of disease-causing viruses and bacteria. But between all of our newfound healthy habits, what if there was a proven defense from at least one deadly virus that would drastically ease the burdens on our healthcare system and save lives?

Flu season typically runs through the fall and winter, from November through February in the Northern Hemisphere. Because of the high rates of COVID-19 combined with the anticipated hospitalizations due to yearly influenza, doctors and other medical professionals are encouraging everyone to get their flu shot now more than ever before.

Girl getting flu vaccine shot by doctor in white coat
Influenza Season shots

Flu-like Symptoms

As you probably know, the symptoms of COVID-19 are described as being "flu-like". This means that people with the virus may present coughing, sneezing, fatigue, sore throat, or aches as symptoms. Because the symptoms of COVID-19 and the flu are almost identical, it's hard for people to know which one they have.

This flu season there will be many cases where people wonder whether they have the flu or COVID-19. The most notable difference between symptoms is that people with COVID-19 usually notice a loss of taste and/or smell.

Unfortunately, a person may get the flu or COVID-19 and not show symptoms for over 24 hours. During this time they may be spreading an illness without knowing it. COVID-19 may have an even longer period of time where it can spread without the individual having symptoms.

The flu and COVID-19 can both be deadly. Tens of thousands of people die each year from influenza in the US while COVID-19 is responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths. If the flu is not well-controlled, we could be looking at increased deaths from both illnesses over the next few months.

Risk of Co-Contracting

So far, there is not a lot of research or evidence about what will happen if a person gets the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. Experts are worried that having the two illnesses at the same time could mean that the symptoms are worse overall. If a person has both illnesses at the same time they could also spread both of them.

By getting the flu vaccine, you drastically decrease your risk of contracting and further spreading the flu. If enough people get the flu vaccine this before flu season, we can reduce the overall risk of complications from co-contracting both illnesses. You can do your part by getting a flu shot.

False Sense of Security

With the additional sanitation procedures and health precautions in place, many people feel that they are already protected from the flu without a vaccine.

And it's true that many of the protocols for COVID-19 protect from the flu. Some countries saw a dramatic decline in the total number of flu cases last year because people were staying inside and being more cautious. We hope to see the same trend this flu season but we cannot be sure.

Washing your hands, covering your nose and mouth, and limited close contact with others will help protect you from the flu. However, we know that even when people have the best intentions they don't always follow these rules. If the coronavirus continues to spread despite safety measures, the flu can too.

Both the flu and COVID-19 are spread from person to person. They can spread via droplets when people cough, sneeze or talk. However, the flu virus may be more dangerous when it comes to surfaces like doorknobs or elevator buttons. The virus may stay longer on surfaces and therefore continue to spread.

Even though COVID-19 safety protocols reduce your risk of contracting the flu, the best thing you can do is to get your flu shot. You can feel more confident about staying healthy if you get the flu vaccine. Currently, there is no vaccine for COVID-19, but there is one for the flu, so we should all be taking advantage of it.

Managing Resources

Some hospitals and medical facilities are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. Coronavirus testing centers are also very busy across the country. These are precious resources that we rely on to keep the population safe and healthy.

If there are more cases of the flu, that may take away resources from fighting the pandemic. The flu vaccine prevents the flu and it can also reduce the severity of the flu if a person does get it. Fewer severe flu cases means that there will be fewer flu-related hospitalizations.

Experts stress the importance of having fewer flu cases and less severe flu cases because it frees up resources for severe cases of COVID-19. We want hospitals to have the capacity to help everyone that needs it. The flu vaccine is a highly effective strategy to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed.

Testing centers could also be overwhelmed if there are a lot of flu cases. People unable to tell the difference between the flu and COVID-19 will want to get tested. So the fewer flu cases, the fewer people needing tests.

The Flu Vaccine Is Always Important

Medical professionals are especially worried about flu season this year. But regardless of COVID-19 risk, the flu shot is always recommended by doctors.

There is misinformation that the flu isn't safe or that healthy adults don't need a flu shot. This has been deemed false by researchers, doctors, and medical officials. The flu shot is safe, effective, and it protects not only you but your family and community.

Get a Flu Shot

Getting the flu vaccine is important every year, but especially this year. Experts are encouraging children and adults to get their flu shot before flu season begins.

Reducing the number of flu cases prevents people from contracting both illnesses at the same time. It also increases the number of resources medical facilities have to help COVID-19 patients. You can do your part to keep the community healthy by getting your flu shot today.

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