“If we had a busy flu season when the hospitals were full of flu patients and busy COVID season, we could really tax the health care system,” said Dr. Keith Armitage, an infectious disease specialist and the medical director at University Hospitals Roe Green Center for Travel Medicine and Global Health.
Medical experts are urging people to get the flu vaccine, especially this year.
“If you got the flu and you recently recovered from COVID-19 or you got COVID-19 a few weeks afterward, it would just do so much damage to your body,” said Dr. David Margolius, interim division director of internal medicine at MetroHealth.
Margolius said the flu vaccine does not prevent COVID-19 but, “Keeping yourself safe from flu is going to keep your body as healthy as possible, keep you healthy as possible to be able to fight off the coronavirus if you were to get that as well.”
Doctors acknowledge there’s a percentage of the population that does not get the vaccine every year.
“I hope it certainly doesn’t go down this year as there’s more focus on vaccines,” Armitage said.
“Generally, we see that about 50 to 60 percent of people in our community do get the flu vaccine and so we’re hoping that this year we can hit 60 percent, maybe 70 percent of people,” Margolius said.
Hospital systems are preparing and watching for data indicating the start of the flu season.
“We’ll be paying close attention to that and that will start to guide our treatment,” Margolius said.
“I believe we may have some swab test for both,” Armitage said.
People are encouraged to get the shot in September or October.
“It will last through the flu season at this point,” Margolius said.
Both doctors are cautiously optimistic that current COVID precautions could contribute to a milder flu season.
“There is evidence from some southern hemisphere countries where there was high mask compliance and some reasonable social distancing that there was a lot less influenza. So we’re hopeful for that,” Armitage said.
The symptoms for both viruses are similar and both come with a warning.
“They’re both two dangerous viruses that are out there,” Margolius said.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends all people 6 months and older get a yearly flu shot.
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