Every year, the seasonal flu can cause serious illness, resulting in hospitalization and death for some individuals. In the 2020-2021 flu season, there is the added concern about COVID-19, a serious respiratory illness with symptoms similar to the flu, but with a higher mortality rate.
What that means is that two respiratory diseases this season may put unprecedented strain on the medical system, as well as put people more at risk for serious illness. Here’s what you need to know about keeping you and your loved ones safe, as well as preventing these viruses from spreading.
The CDC recommends the annual influenza vaccination for everyone 6 months and older. There are many different flu viruses, and this vaccine protects against what are expected to be the most widely circulated strains in the U.S. this year.
By receiving the flu vaccine, you’ll decrease the likelihood of contracting and spreading the flu. This is especially important this year because the more people that are protected, the less likely it is that they will need medical attention. This lessens the strain on hospitals and healthcare workers so that they can focus more attention on COVID-19, which will continue to spread rapidly until the vaccine is widely distributed (probably later in 2021).
Even if flu activity is low in your community, getting flu vaccines earlier in the season is vital to preventing its spread later. It takes two weeks after receiving the vaccine to develop the antibodies that provide protection. Fall is ideally the best time to get it, although you can still benefit if you get it later.
And while the COVID-19 vaccine may not be widely available until later in the year, if you are able to get it, take it to protect yourself and prevent this serious illness from spreading.
Yes, if you’re exposed to both viruses, you may have both viruses at the same time. Symptoms are similar, so you won’t know if you have both unless you are tested.
Symptoms of influenza include:
Many of these symptoms are similar to COVID-19 symptoms. If you are sick, stay home and isolate yourself as much as possible. You may be able to get tested for both illnesses at certain locations, although some testing centers are solely for COVID-19.
In a normal flu season, it’s smart to follow common sense to prevent the spread of illness: wash your hands frequently and isolate yourself if you develop symptoms.
In addition to these measures, it’s important this year to follow public health guidelines, including social distancing, avoiding gatherings and wearing a mask when in public. Not only will this help prevent the spread of COVID-19, but it will deter the flu as well.
If you have flu-like symptoms or questions about the 2021 flu season, talk to a medical professional to learn the best course of action. If you live in Maryland or the Washington, DC area, you can contact us at 301-277-3555 for advice or to set up an appointment.