SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — The flu season is upon us. And this year there is even greater concern with the COVID-19 outbreak. After all, a Stanford study in April 2020 suggests as many as one in five people who have tested positive for COVID were also infected with another virus. So how do we protect our family, and ourselves, during these trying times, flu prevention?
Leonor Gutierrez is being more cautious than ever these days when it comes to her health and with good reason. She was one of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who tested positive for COVID-19.
“My nine-year-old cried cause he said he didn’t want us to die,” said Gutierrez.
Gutierrez counts herself as one of the lucky ones since her illness didn’t require a hospital stay. But lingering symptoms have her concerned how her body will respond during the flu season.
“We don’t exactly know how COVID will affect the flu season this year. If there isn’t enough social distancing during the flu season, we could see lots of both types of viruses circulating,” explained Supriya Narasimhan, MD, MS, Chief of Infectious Diseases, at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.
The biggest concern is that it could be hard to tell the difference between COVID-19 and the flu.
“The common symptoms of COVID are also seen in influenza,” continued Dr. Narasimhan.
Dr. Narasimhan says the loss of taste and smell are the only symptoms exclusive to COVID-19. That’s why it’s more important than ever to prepare early for the flu season, get the flu vaccine, and test for both COVID and flu if symptoms appear.
“It’s best to get the flu shot early before the flu season and flu activity in the community peaks,” warns Dr. Narasimhan.
And remember, the same social distancing measures that work for COVID-19 also apply for the flu.
“When I was sick with the coronavirus at home, I wore a mask, my children wore a mask, and my children did not get the coronavirus,” said Gutierrez.
Back to work and healthy, Gutierrez knows it’s better to be safe than sorry.
The doctor also added that a patient can be infected with COVID-19 and the flu at the same time. To anticipate an increase in illness, the CDC has developed a test to check for both the flu and the virus that causes COVID-19.
Contributors to this news report include: Jennifer Winter, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; and Rusty Reed, Videographer.
FLU PREVENTION DURING A PANDEMIC
BACKGROUND: The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Those viruses infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Getting a flu vaccine each year is the best prevention from the flu. The CDC estimates that influenza has resulted in an estimated 38 million illnesses and around 400,000 hospitalizations this past year. The flu is different from a cold and typically comes on suddenly. Some of the symptoms to watch for are fever or feeling feverish/chills; cough; sore throat; runny or stuffy nose; muscle or body aches; headaches; fatigue; and some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
THE FLU AND COVID: There are several different flu viruses each year, and the virus strains change from year to year. Therefore, the flu shot is updated each year to protect against three or four of the worst flu strains that are expected to show up during that season. Doctors are noting that fewer patients are getting recommended vaccines. Because of the pandemic, many large-scale vaccination locations might not be offering the vaccine this year. Even if you usually skip a flu shot, this is the year to make sure you get one. It’s also important to ensure your children (over 6 months old) get flu shots and any other vaccines they need. Be sure to care for yourself and your family with good nutrition, plenty of rest, proper hydration, regular exercise and stress management. And continue protecting yourself from the coronavirus by washing your hands frequently, cleaning and sanitizing, wearing a face mask and physically distancing.
VACCINE MAY PREVENT “TWINDEMIC”: A new study suggests there could be another key reason to get a flu vaccine this year: it could reduce the risk of COVID-19. The research indicates that a flu vaccine against the influenza virus may also trigger the body to produce broad infection-fighting molecules that combat the pandemic-causing coronavirus. Mihai Netea, an infectious disease immunologist at Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands, and his colleagues, combed through their hospital’s databases to see if employees who got a flu shot during the 2019–2020 season were more or less likely to get infected by the COVID-19 virus. Workers who received a flu vaccine were 39 percent less likely to test positive for the coronavirus as of June 1, 2020. While 2.23 percent of nonvaccinated employees tested positive, only 1.33 percent of vaccinated ones did. These findings do not prove that flu vaccines prevent COVID-19. But, Ellen Foxman, an immunobiologist and clinical pathologist at the Yale School of Medicine says, “There is evidence from the literature that trained immunity does exist and can offer broad protection, in unexpected ways, against other pathogens besides what the vaccine was designed against.”
* For More Information, Contact:
James Chisum, Media Relations
Free weekly e-mail on Medical Breakthroughs from Ivanhoe. To sign up: http://www.ivanhoe.com/ftk