It’s that time of year, experts warn: Get a flu shot

It’s that time of year, experts warn: Get a flu shot


Last fall, as coronavirus cases soared and the world was hoping for vaccines, health experts feared that flu and COVID-19 would combine into a devastating “vertigo.”

While pandemic measures have been put in place to keep the flu in check, experts are again concerned this year, especially as some countries and state agencies are rolling back lockdown rules. Many officials and experts urge the public: Don’t dismiss the risk of flu and look for a flu vaccine.

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Last fall, as coronavirus cases soared and the world was hoping for vaccines, health experts feared that flu and COVID-19 would combine into a devastating “vertigo.”

While pandemic measures have been put in place to keep the flu in check, experts are again concerned this year, especially as some countries and state agencies are rolling back lockdown rules. Many officials and experts urge the public: Don’t dismiss the risk of flu and look for a flu vaccine.

“This year we are guaranteed to have the flu and we will have a version of a twin disease,” said Dr. William Schaffner, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. “It could put even more strain on an already extraordinarily stretched, tense health system that is tired to the bone.”

The US is struggling with an average of more than 160,000 new coronavirus cases per day. Hospitals and intensive care units are filling up with COVID-19 patients. At the same time, mask requirements and social distancing were relaxed in some places, so that infectious respiratory diseases can spread more easily than in the previous year.

Schaffner warned that medical professionals should now remind people of the flu: “We have to say, ‘There’s still a nasty respiratory virus and don’t blow it away.'”

This flu season like no other.

In the US, flu activity was significantly lower during the 2020-21 season than any previous flu season since at least 1997, the first for which data is publicly available.

Scientists said pandemic precautions most likely played a role as many people adopted masking, social distancing, and hand washing habits.

“The shortage of influenza over the past year has been really remarkable,” said Dr. Patrick Jackson, an infectious disease expert at the University of Virginia. “It may be that people’s willingness to wear masks, wash their hands regularly, and be aware of symptoms can help us move forward. And I really hope that this is the story. “

Experts hope these behaviors will carry over into the upcoming flu season, especially as more people return to public transportation, restaurants, schools, and offices.

But the U.S. and a number of other countries disagree on how to deal with the pandemic, and some people have stopped taking these precautionary measures.

That could mean additional burdens for hospitals that are already treating many COVID-19 patients.

“Given our policies, a surge in COVID / flu will be unevenly distributed across health systems,” said Jackson.

Who should get the flu vaccine and when?

The relative lack of flu cases over the past 18 months could also mean population-level immunity to the flu is lower this season, said Lynnette Brammer, head of the influenza surveillance team at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And while it is still uncertain how the season will play out, she added that relaxed pandemic measures in some locations “will likely lead to the resumption of seasonal flu virus circulation.”

“All of this could prepare us for a potentially severe flu season,” she added.

In the northern hemisphere, the season begins in October and can last until May. In the southern hemisphere, it typically occurs from ril to September.

The CDC advises everyone 6 months and older to have the injection, with a few exceptions. Vaccination is particularly important for some groups of people, including people with pre-existing conditions, older adults and young children, Brammer said.

It takes about two weeks for protection to develop after vaccination, so experts recommend getting vaccinated from September to late October, but even after that, it’s better to get the vaccine than not.

Because viruses mutate and need a new vaccine every year, even people who got a flu shot last year need another one this year, they said. For each season of the year, vaccines are tailored to the types of influenza virus – there are many – that are or are most likely to circulate.

If I am vaccinated against COVID-19, do I still need the flu vaccination?

Yes, one does not protect against the other. Vaccines are said to target specific viruses: Just as the COVID-19 vaccines are made against the coronavirus, flu vaccines target influenza viruses.

That means flu vaccinations will be given out this year as some people are getting initial and booster vaccinations for the coronavirus.

“It’s vaccination fatigue out there,” said Schaffner. “But we’re going to have to tell people, ‘Oh no, you need someone else,’ right at the point when we put the boost on.”

Can I get the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine in the same visit?

Yes sir. The CDC says the vaccine can be given regardless of the timing of other vaccines.

Side effects are generally similar when the vaccines are given at the same time as when given alone, says the CDC.

Dr. Kevin Ban, Chief Medical Officer at Walgreens, said, “Not only is it possible, but we strongly encourage people to get vaccinated against both flu and COVID.”

Vaccines received at the same time do not cause cumulative reactions, said Dr. LJ Tan, Chief Policy and Partnerships Officer of the Immunization Action Coalition, in an interview. “It’s not like you’re adding it.”

Common reactions to the flu vaccine can be an aching arm and some people might get a little tired, he said.

If you are getting the flu shot and the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time, experts recommend using different arms to avoid pain or spacing the injection site at least 1 inch apart for each vaccination.

Can I get flu and COVID-19 at the same time?

Yes sir. Flu, COVID-19, and other respiratory illnesses have symptoms similar to those of a cough, fever, and body aches. Only tests can tell which virus a patient has or whether a patient has both.

Different tests are used for each, and identifying the difference is essential to treatment. There are antiviral treatments for influenza, and some patients with COVID-19 receive treatment with monoclonal antibodies.

“Doctors will have to do a lot more tests this year than in the past,” said Schaffner. “It is important to know who has what.”

What about children and pregnant women?

The CDC estimates the flu has killed 12,000 to 61,000 people annually since 2010. (More than 650,000 deaths have been linked to the coronavirus pandemic in the United States).

According to a study cited by the American Academy of Pediatrics this week, about 80% of children who have died from influenza in recent years have not been vaccinated.

The flu has the ability to “bring a normal child to the emergency room in 48 hours,” said Schaffner. Children died of the flu when they became septic or got pneumonia, he said.

A major contributor to the low flu numbers last season was that the children attended school from a distance and avoided groups, he said.

“Children are really the big carriers of the influenza virus,” said Schaffner. “They shed more viruses than adults, and they shed the virus over a longer period of time. They spread it among themselves and then bring it home. “

Many children are returning to face-to-face learning this school year, and some are not required to wear masks.

If children who have not received the flu shot get the flu, they should still be vaccinated when they recover. Experts added that children with COVID-19 should not get the flu vaccine until they have recovered.

They also recommend pregnant women to get the flu vaccine because its protection passes through the placenta.

How is the flu treated?

Antibiotics aren’t effective for the flu, but antiviral drugs can relieve symptoms. Ideally, they should be given within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. People with the flu should rest and drink plenty of water, and most will recover within a week.

Where can I get the vaccine?

Pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS, as well as Walmart, offer free flu shots. There are mobile PS to give advice and online vaccination finders.

Officials and public health experts said vaccinations are important because they reduce the chances of serious, sometimes fatal, illness.

“We can’t turn it off like a light switch,” says Schaffner. “But we can dim it.”

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