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Health - Public Health News

Posted on: September 14, 2020

Protect Yourself from Flu During the COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID-19 infection is a top health concern for most of us, but flu season is fast approaching. Given the current pandemic, it’s more important than ever to get a flu shot and continue everyday healthy habits that help stop the spread of germs.

During the 2019-2020 flu season, the CDC estimates that there were at least:

  • 39 million flu illnesses
  • 18 million flu-related medical visits
  • 410,000 hospitalizations due to flu
  • 64,000 flu deaths

Getting a flu shot can help:

  • Preserve healthcare resources that are needed for people with COVID-19.
  • Keep you out of the doctor’s office and the hospital for flu-related illnesses.
  • Keep you healthy so you don’t miss school or work.

Protect yourself from the flu

Masks and social distancing are good tools to stop the spread of an infection, but to prevent the flu, we have something even more effective. The single best way to protect yourself against seasonal flu is to get vaccinated. Doctors recommend that everyone over six months old get a flu shot, especially this year. 

Now is a good time to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider or visit your local pharmacy to get your flu shot. It takes about two weeks for your body to make the antibodies that protect against the flu virus. For best protection, get vaccinated by the end of October. Find a location near you.

Protect others too

We’ve all been working together to prevent COVID-19 illness in Whatcom County. Let’s do the same in preventing the flu this year. Get your flu shot and help keep doctor appointments and hospital beds available to people with urgent or chronic medical conditions.

Getting a flu shot helps protect people around us who can’t get one, including babies younger than 6 months and people with weakened immune systems. You might have only mild illness but you can still spread the flu to people more vulnerable to serious illness.

How is the flu similar and different from COVID-19?

Common symptoms for both flu and COVID-19 include fever, cough, and fatigue. Symptoms for both viruses can range from mild to severe. Complications for both can lead to pneumonia, hospitalization, and even death. For a more complete comparison of flu and COVID-19, including symptoms, transmission, complications, and treatment, see this table from the CDC.

One of the biggest differences between the two viruses is that we have effective vaccines and antiviral drugs to prevent and treat the flu that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent COVID-19 and no FDA-approved drugs to treat COVID-19.

Can I get the flu and COVID-19?

It’s possible to have the flu and COVID-19, or another respiratory illness, at the same time. All the more reason to prevent flu infection by getting your flu shot now! Diagnostic testing can help determine if you have the flu or COVID-19. See our testing page for up-to-date information about testing for COVID-19. Even if you have mild symptoms of COVID-19, please get tested. 

Make healthy choices

Now more than ever, it’s important to make decisions that protect your health and the health of our community. Practicing good everyday health habits can prevent both flu and COVID-19:

  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. This is how germs spread.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces regularly that may be contaminated with germs, such as door handles, light switches, phones, faucets, toilets, and counters.

We can all do our part to prevent flu-related illness and hospitalizations. Get your flu shot soon and encourage family and friends to do the same. For answers to more frequently asked questions about flu, see the CDC’s FAQs on the 2020-2021 flu season.

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