How to Prepare for the 2020 Flu Season
It’s hard to imagine even thinking about another virus right now while COVID-19 is still such a big part of our lives. But nevertheless, flu season is coming.
And health professionals say this one requires your extra attention.
This fall, it’s likely that the flu and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both be spreading. Here’s the good news: there’s already a vaccine for the flu. And it’s easily accessible and often free. You can get a flu shot at your local pharmacy or find a location through your doctor.
This fall “getting a flu vaccine will be more important than ever.” – the CDC
How effective is the flu shot?
There are many different flu viruses and they change constantly. Each year, the composition of flu vaccines is reviewed and they are updated to best protect you from the current circulating forms of the flu viruses. According to the CDC, getting your flu shot reduces your risk of getting the flu by between 40% and 60%.
Everyone has heard a story about someone who never gets the flu shot and also never gets the flu, as well as the tale of someone who gets the flu shot and has gotten the flu. Both narratives are possible, but a key point is this: even if the flu shot doesn’t prevent you from getting the flu, it may decrease the severity of illness should you get sick.
And according to the CDC, “because of the COVID-19 pandemic, reducing the spread of respiratory illnesses, like flu, this fall and winter is more important than ever.” Getting your flu shot not only lowers your risk of getting the flu, but is also beneficial because it could help conserve potentially scarce health care resources as COVID-19 continues.
Should you get a flu shot?
Generally, yes. According to the CDC, for the 2020-2021 flu season, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends the flu vaccination for everyone 6 months and older. And the CDC has worked with vaccine manufacturers to make sure there are extra flu shots available this fall.
When should you get the flu shot?
September or October are good times for you to get the flu shot. The CDC recommends getting it no later than the end of October. Vaccine distributors will have flu shots available through the entire flu season.
Can you get COVID-19 and the flu at the same time?
Yes. It is possible to have the flu (as well as other respiratory illnesses) and COVID-19 simultaneously. Health experts are currently studying how common this situation can be.
Some of the symptoms of the flu and COVID-19 are similar, which can make it hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. If you aren’t sure whether you have the flu or COVID-19, diagnostic testing can help you figure it out and get the appropriate treatment.
“Getting the flu this season may lead to the need for a longer quarantine than in the past. Because the symptoms of the flu and COVID-19 are similar, if you get the flu, and testing for the flu and COVID-19 are not easily available, you may have to quarantine for up to 10+ days. It’s something we all want to avoid.” – Dr. Dani Urcuyo
What are the differences between the flu and COVID-19?
The flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a new coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2 and the flu results from infection with influenza viruses.
The flu and COVID-19 share many characteristics, but have some variances in their levels of contagiousness, modes of spreading, complications, and more factors. To read more about the similarities and differences between COVID-19 and the flu, the CDC has outlined them here.
SteadyMD Members: Remember, your SteadyMD doctor is available to help. Text or set up an online appointment with your personal doctor to discuss any concerns you have during this upcoming flu season.
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More Helpful Resources:
- CDC: Misconceptions about Seasonal Flu and Flu Vaccines
- CDC: Similarities and Differences between Flu and COVID-19
- CDC: Frequently Asked Influenza (Flu) Questions: 2020-2021 Season