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Preparing for a unique flu season

Posted on: 10/05/2020

by Nerissa Baptiste, MD
Bradford Family Practice, Foothills Medical Group, Bradford Regional Medical Center

As the weather starts to cool, we are faced with a very unique situation, the 2020-2021 flu season starting in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

We cannot be certain on the challenges we will face but one concern is that it may be possible for you can be infected with the influenza (flu) virus and COVID at the same time. Also, if you are infected with one of these viruses, it may be difficult to determine which, since they both have similar symptoms and the complications of these viruses are similar as well. Another worry is that many hospitals could see an increase in the volume of patients during the fall and winter, with both influenza and COVID viruses circulating. We run the risk of overwhelming our health care systems. There is no treatment or vaccine for COVID. The treatment for influenza has been shown to decrease symptom duration by one day; but great news, there is a vaccine for influenza! This year it is more important than ever to get your flu vaccine.

A common argument is that the flu vaccine is not very effective. This could be attributed to a variety of factors, including that the strains of the influenza virus that would be present this season is predicted. In addition, the flu vaccine has been shown to provide immunity for about six months, so those who receive their vaccines too early could be infected later in the season. The ideal time to receive your flu vaccine is the months of September and October.

I am frequently asked “will the flu vaccine make me sick?” When your body is building immunity after getting the vaccine (which is made of inactivated or weakened viruses), some people experience mild flu-like symptoms. It is important to note that this is not the flu. Also, the flu vaccine has been shown to decrease the severity of real flu symptoms and reduce hospitalizations.

Other than people with previous allergic reactions to the flu vaccine or those who have experienced Guillain-Barre syndrome after receiving the flu vaccine, everyone six months old and older should get the flu vaccine.

The CDC has reported that it is estimated we will have an extra 20 million doses of flu vaccine available this year, which should alleviate fears of shortages. Here at BRMC Family Practice, we are administering vaccines now. Call us or your medical provider to get vaccinated. This year, it’s more than ever to get your flu vaccine!

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