Health officials have urged the public to wear masks, wash their hands and socially distance to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but we’ll soon have a new virus to cope with – the flu. Depending on whether people continue (or begin to) follow these guidelines, Oklahoma could see a drop in flu cases or a dangerous viral storm, experts say. Getting a flu vaccine as soon as possible will help prevent this from happening.
As flu vaccinations are starting to become available in our area, we thought this would be a good time to share some helpful information on COVID and the flu from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
What is the difference between Influenza (Flu) and COVID-19?
CDC: Influenza (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 flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses. Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone, and testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis. Flu and COVID-19 share many characteristics, but there are some key differences between the two.
Will there be flu along with COVID-19 in the fall and winter?
CDC: While it’s not possible to say with certainty what will happen in the fall and winter, CDC believes it’s likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both be spreading. In this context, getting a flu vaccine will be more important than ever. CDC recommends that all people 6 months and older get a yearly flu vaccine.
Can I have flu and COVID-19 at the same time?
CDC: Yes. It is possible have flu, as well as other respiratory illnesses, and COVID-19 at the same time. Health experts are still studying how common this can be. Some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, making it hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. Diagnostic testing can help determine if you are sick with flu or COVID-19.
Is COVID-19 more dangerous than flu?
CDC: Flu and COVID-19 can both result in serious illness, including illness resulting in hospitalization or death. While there is still much to learn about COVID-19, at this time, it does seem as if COVID-19 is more deadly than seasonal influenza; however, it is too early to draw any conclusions from the current data.
Will a flu vaccine protect me against COVID-19?
CDC: Getting a flu vaccine will NOT protect against COVID-19, however flu vaccination has many other important benefits. Flu vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization and death. Getting a flu vaccine this fall will be more important than ever, not only to reduce your risk from flu but also to help conserve potentially scarce health care resources.
Does a flu vaccination increase your risk of getting COVID-19?
CDC: There is no evidence that getting a flu vaccination increases your risk of getting sick from a coronavirus, like the one that causes COVID-19.
If COVID-19 is spreading in my community, should I still go out to get a flu vaccine?
CDC: Yes. Getting a flu vaccine is an essential part of protecting your health and your family’s health this season. To protect your health when getting a flu vaccine, follow CDC’s recommendations for running essential errands and doctor visits. Continue to take everyday preventive actions.
How can I safely get a flu vaccine if COVID-19 is spreading in my community?
CDC: When going to get a flu vaccine, practice everyday preventive actions and follow CDC recommendations for running essential errands. Ask your doctor, pharmacist, or health department if they are following CDC’s vaccination pandemic guidance. Any vaccination location following CDC’s guidance should be a safe place for you to get a flu vaccine.
Flu vaccines are starting to become available in our area, you may visit this site https://vaccinefinder.org/ to find locations near you (these include pharmacies and health care departments). If you have questions about which vaccination is best for you, please talk to your health care provider.