It's that time of year again; flu season. The truth is that influenza is no laughing matter. It is much more than a cold, and even a "bad cold." It can result in serious health complications like pneumonia, bacterial infections, and possibly hospitalization. Now, add COVID-19 to the mix, and we’ve got an even bigger problem. Yes, flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but different viruses cause them. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a new coronavirus, called SARS-CoV-2, whereas the flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses. There are some key differences between the two. COVID-19 seems to spread more easily than flu and causes more severe illnesses in some people. It can also take longer before people show symptoms, and people can be contagious for longer. Another important difference is there is a vaccine to protect against flu! There is currently no approved vaccine to prevent COVID-19, although several are on the horizon. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed.
We want to highlight the importance of the flu vaccine during National Influenza Vaccination Week and why you should get it if you haven't done so already. There are many reasons to get a flu vaccine. It can reduce your risk of flu and its potentially serious complications. It also can reduce the severity of your illness, even if you still get sick. However, flu vaccination isn't just about keeping you healthy; it's also about helping to protect everyone around you who may be vulnerable to becoming very sick from flu. Getting a flu vaccine is more important than ever this year to protect yourself, your family, and your community from the flu. A flu vaccine this season can also help reduce the burden on our healthcare systems responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and save medical resources for the care of COVID-19 patients.
Not many people get vaccinated after November ends, but that doesn't mean you can’t! Flu activity is always predicted to increase during the holiday season, with more people traveling and visiting loved ones. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against flu to develop in the body. Like mentioned before, if you get vaccinated, it can also protect the people around you, including those who cannot be vaccinated or are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies and young children, older people, and people with certain chronic health conditions. Remember, it's not too late to get vaccinated! If you want to get your flu shot, be sure to do it as soon as you can. Community Care is happy to make it easy for you; simply call your primary care office and schedule an appointment specifically for your flu vaccine.
In addition to the flu vaccine, we recommend taking precautionary measures to keep you and your family feeling safe and healthy during flu season, the ongoing pandemic, and every day after. Here are some helpful tips on staying healthy:
• Take everyday preventive actions to reduce the spread of flu, like avoiding close contact with sick people. If you are sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
• Always cover coughs and sneezes. Use a tissue to cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze and throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way!
• Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with viruses that cause flu and COVID-19.
• For flu, the CDC recommends that people stay home for at least 24 hours after their fever is gone except to get medical care or other necessities. Fever should be gone without the need to use fever-reducing medicine.
• For COVID-19, you should also take additional precautions to help slow the spread like wearing a face mask in public and keeping at least 6 feet away from others.
Every flu season is different, and this one is by far the most unique. Influenza, and COVID-19 for that matter, can affect people differently. Millions of people get the flu every year, hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized, and thousands to tens of thousands of people die from flu-related causes every year. Why take the risk? Getting your annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself against the flu.
Call your Community Care office today to schedule a visit specifically for the flu vaccine. Please note that many of our practices require you to be an established patient for them to give you the flu vaccine. Please call the office for more information.
For more guidance on the 2020-2021 flu season, visit the CDC's Frequently Asked Influenza (Flu) Questions.