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Getting flu, COVID-19 at same time could be a ‘double punch’

Getting flu, COVID-19 at same time could be a ‘double punch’

Health
Ill woman

With flu season underway, you might wonder whether it’s possible to become ill with COVID-19 and flu at the same time.
“Unfortunately, yes, we are vulnerable to contracting both viruses simultaneously,” says Dr. Gerald Harmon, vice president of medical affairs at Tidelands Health and a longtime family medicine physician.
Falling ill with one virus does not preclude you from contracting the other. They are two different viruses that offer no cross-immunity, he says. That’s one of the reasons why it is more important than ever to get a flu shot this year.
With few exceptions, everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu shot.
“If you get both illnesses, that could be a double punch,” he says. “Either illness alone can be serious enough to lead to hospitalization.”

Take precautions

Both COVID-19 and flu affect the upper respiratory system, but COVID-19 can also attack the body’s blood vessels and interfere with the body’s ability to transport oxygen to vital organs.
With either illness, patients can face potential lung infections that can lead to sepsis, a life-threatening blood infection that can cause organs to shut down and result in death.

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Older adults and people with certain underlying health issues such as diabetes, kidney disease and heart disease — already considered at high risk for COVID-19 and flu — could be catapulted to an even higher risk for serious complications if infected with both viruses at the same time, Dr. Harmon says.
“The good news is that our current anti-COVID measures — wearing masks, washing hands, social distancing and avoiding large gatherings — are measures we recommend each year to mitigate transmission of influenza,” Dr. Harmon says. “With those procedures in place, and if people continue to maintain them, we can limit the spread of both viruses.”

Overlapping symptoms

A medical evaluation is the only way to differentiate between flu and COVID-19 or determine whether you are infected with both illness, which share many overlapping symptoms such as cough, fever, muscle ache and fatigue.
As such, if you start to notice flu-like symptoms, contact your health care provider or 1-866-TIDELANDS. Make sure to call before going to a care location, and always call 911 in case of emergency.

Get your flu shot now

Although there’s no vaccine for COVID-19, getting a flu shot makes it less likely you’ll become sick with influenza and, even if you do, it can help reduce the severity of your symptoms, Dr. Harmon says. Plus, by getting a flu shot, you can help limit the overall spread of the flu in our community and help prevent health care providers from being overwhelmed by a surge of flu and COVID-19 cases.

How to get a flu shot

Schedule your flu shot today by calling 1-866-TIDELANDS, attend a walk-in clinics or a stop by a drive-through flu shot event. Click here for more information, including times and locations. 

An estimated 190 million doses of the flu shot and nasal spray will be made for use across the U.S. this fall. That’s 20 million more doses than in previous years, a response to the predicted high demand for flu shots amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am encouraging my patients to get a flu shot as soon as possible,” Dr. Harmon says. “It’s important to get the shot early in the season to give your body time to build immunity before flu cases begin to peak.”

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