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Tips for staying healthy this flu season during COVID-19

Written by Chronicle Staff. Posted in Featured, Health & Wellness

Published on October 21, 2020 with No Comments

 by Dr. Cameual Wright

Medical Director, CareSource Indiana Market

Flu season is upon us again and many people have questions about how to stay safe, especially as we continue to face COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. In the U.S., flu season occurs during the fall and winter and typically peaks between December and February.

Having proper knowledge on the flu and its symptoms is a key way to stay healthy during flu season. Dr. Cameual Wright, medical director at CareSource, a nonprofit health plan, has important information to share regarding the upcoming flu season.

Know the Symptoms of Influenza

Now more than ever, it is important to know the symptoms of the flu. Some symptoms of the flu are very similar to COVID-19 including fever, cough, shortness of breath, runny nose and fatigue. It is essential to identify your symptoms to move forward with proper treatment. One unique symptom that may occur if you have COVID-19 is the loss of taste or smell. When in doubt, you should get tested. Higher numbers of flu tests are expected this year to help determine if a patient has the flu or COVID-19.

The Flu Shot is More Important than Ever

The flu shot is important every year, but COVID-19 has prompted even more urgency in receiving the vaccine. The flu vaccination offers benefits including reducing the risk of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and even the risk of flu-related death. Getting the flu vaccine this year will decrease your likelihood of getting the flu and will help rule out what illness you may have if you do get sick.

Proper Hygiene and Protection Prevents Transmission

After months of increasing personal protection and hygiene to protect against COVID-19, we should plan to continue these through flu season to stay healthy. Best practices to avoid transmission of the influenza virus include effective handwashing, not touching the face, avoiding sick contacts, and wearing facial coverings. Flu season is a good time to emphasize these practices with children, as many of them have returned to school.

The Flu Should Be Taken Seriously

It is a common misconception that the flu is not that serious, but it can have serious health effects. The influenza virus should not be taken lightly, even if COVID-19 appears to be the larger threat. Some may be able to let the flu run its course with low to moderate symptoms, but others may be affected more seriously. Like COVID-19, those who are immunocompromised will see much more serious effects that could result in death. If you are immunocompromised or have a weakened immune system, you should be diligent about taking safety precautions.

Know What to Do if You Think You Have the Flu

If you think you have the flu, you should seek care as soon as possible. The flu can be treated with antivirals but are most effective if taken within 48 hours of getting sick. While getting treatment as early as possible is ideal, antivirals can still be effective after the 48-hour window of time. If you are not sure if you have the flu or another illness including COVID-19, you can call CareSource24, a 24-hour nurse helpline that is available with registered nurses to help answer questions, make distinctions, and provide guidance.

 

Why should people get vaccinated against the flu?

 

Influenza is a potentially serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Every flu season is different, and influenza infection can affect people differently, but millions of people get the flu every year, hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized and thousands or tens of thousands of people die from flu-related causes every year. An annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to help protect against flu. Vaccination has been shown to have many benefits including reducing the risk of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and even the risk of flu-related death in children.

How do flu vaccines work?

Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection with the viruses that are in the vaccine.

The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. Traditional flu vaccines (called “trivalent” vaccines) are made to protect against three flu viruses; an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and an influenza B virus. There are also flu vaccines made to protect against four flu viruses (called “quadrivalent” vaccines). These vaccines protect against the same viruses as the trivalent vaccine and an additional B virus.

All opinions, conclusions and recommendations expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the views of The Chronicle. CareSource is helping its members stay healthy this flu season by covering the cost of the flu shot, educating their members on best practices, and offering guidance on questions they may have. For more information, visit www.caresource.com.

 

 

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