What to know about the flu season during the COVID-19 pandemic

What to know about the flu season during the COVID-19 pandemic

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - With summer coming to a close, another flu season will soon be upon us as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You’re going to hear a lot more from me and my team, and I’m sure the governor as well, about the importance of everyone getting their flu shots this year,” said NCDHHS Secretary, Dr. Mandy Cohen. “So our ability to make sure folks can get their flu shots is also going to impact our ability to have success in the COVID front as well.”

Flu season typically runs from October through May of each year. Even with a vaccine, millions of people across the United States contracted the flu last season.

CDC 2019-2020 U.S. Flu Season: Preliminary Burden Estimates.
CDC 2019-2020 U.S. Flu Season: Preliminary Burden Estimates. (Source: CDC)

According to the CDC, it’s too early to get the flu shot for it to be effective during peak flu season. September or October is the best time to get vaccinated.

“We’ve ordered our flu vaccine at NHC public health and we’re slowly getting doses, but we’re not ready to offer the shots yet because we want to have enough to accommodate the public,” said Carla Turner with the New Hanover County Health Department.

Pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens are already offering the vaccine.

“Let’s be honest, September starts next week,” said Turner. “If people feel like they need to go ahead and get the shot... I want people to do what they need to do to protect themselves.”

The flu and coronavirus share similar symptoms.

“Stuffiness, congestion, fever, cough, some respiratory distress, fatigue,” said Turner. “Just tired, worn out. Those are the same symptoms for COVID as they are for flu.”

Turner says if enough people get the flu vaccine, it provides herd immunity.

“Those of us who can get sick, but are not getting sick because of the vaccine, are going to protect those who can get sick, but can’t get the vaccine,” said Turner. “Whether it’s from an allergy they have or other medical interactions. Therefore, it’s important for all of us to get our flu shot.”

Another reason to get the flu vaccine, to not put a burden on the hospital system. According to the CDC, getting a routine vaccine, like the flu shot, prevents illnesses that lead to unnecessary medical visits and hospitalizations, which further strain the healthcare system.

Turner says with the health and safety guidelines already in place, health experts are hoping for a more mild flu season.

“We have things in place, simple things in place, that can help you protect yourself, your loved ones, and this community,” said Turner. “Those things are these masks that we’re wearing. You and I staying six-feet apart. Me going and washing my hands when I go back into the building and getting my flu shot when it’s available.”

For more answers to questions about the 2020-2021 flu season, visit the CDC’s website.

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