The flu season is approaching quickly in the United States, and many experts are worried that having two respiratory illnesses moving through the population could be dangerous. The COVID-19 and the seasonal flu could overload the health care system. Without proper precautions, Americans could catch both COVID-19 and the flu at the same time.
Fortunately, there is a vaccine for the seasonal flu, so the fatality rate is much lower than that of COVID-19. However, the flu does kill thousands of Americans annually. Getting vaccinated can help relieve some of the pressure on local health care systems.
How Do the Flu and COVID-19 Differ and What Symptoms Do They Have in Common?
The flu and COVID-19 are respiratory viruses that are contagious. The COVID-19 virus is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and the flu is caused by various influenza viruses. The most notable difference between the two viruses is that COVID-19 often causes people to have changes to their senses of taste and smell. The range of symptoms can also vary significantly in people who are infected with COVID-19. Flu symptoms tend to be mild to severe.
The similarities between the viruses is striking. The common symptoms include
- Difficulty breathing
- Muscle pain
- Body aches
- Nasal congestion
- Sore throat
Children and adults can also have digestive symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. While adults can have these issues, they are more commonly found in children. Researchers are still learning about all of the symptoms connected to COVID-19.
Can I Have Flu and COVID-19 at the Same Time?
The quick answer is YES, and people are already catching both viruses simultaneously. Despite patients being diagnosed with both viruses, there are several questions about the severity of having both. The questions are about whether having one makes you more susceptible to catching the other, and if the outcomes of having both are more serious than having one.
Since COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus, researchers are unsure of how they will interact and whether having it along with the flu will increase mortality rates. Both viruses have links to pneumonia, but COVID-19 damages the lungs differently than the flu. The flu causes cells to accumulate in the lungs, but COVID-19 seems to attack the lungs with blood clots.
Researchers are expecting to have more information about the two life-threatening respiratory viruses at the close of the flu season.
Why Should I Get a Flu Shot, Especially This Year?
It is important to get a flu shot in 2020 because of the COVID-19 virus. Hospitals and other health care systems are overtaxed caring for patients with COVID-19. You can do your part to help reduce the stress on the health care system in your area by getting a flu shot. You can also protect yourself from getting both viruses in the most dangerous time of the year.
According to the Center for Disease Control, during the 2018-19 flu season, about 490,000 people had to be hospitalized for the flu. Between March and early September, about 380,000 people were hospitalized for COVID-19. If these two problems intersect, health care systems will not have beds available for them all.
Does the Flu Shot Protect Against COVID-19?
No. At this time, there is not a vaccine that protects people from COVID-19. However, getting a flu shot, practicing social distancing, and wearing a mask will help you from catching both the flu and COVID-19. Flu vaccines reduce your chances of developing the flu and ending up in the hospital because of complications.
How Effective is the Flu Shot This Year?
Unfortunately, each flu vaccine is created to fight the flus that researchers think will hit hard in any given year. Many flu vaccines are built to target four flu strains, two As and two Bs. According to the CDC, the 2020 flu vaccine has changed slightly to fight the expected viruses.
To create the flu vaccine, health experts from the CDC meet with others from major world cities. They meet to coordinate the vaccine needs for the upcoming season. Different flus appear in different countries, and the experts meet to discuss the best way to prevent them.
The answer to whether the flu vaccine will be effective won’t be known until we enter the flu season. The 2019 vaccine was only effective for 39% of grounds who were injected. The vaccine seems to be more beneficial for the elderly and people with underlying conditions like asthma. The efficacy is usually between 30 percent and 60 percent on any given year.
If you get the flu shot, you have no guarantee that you will not get the flu, especially if an unexpected strain starts moving through your community. However, researchers at the CDC have found that if you get the flu vaccine your chances of developing severe symptoms drops significantly.
When is the Best Time to Get a Flu Shot?
In the United States, the flu season begins in the fall and worsens in the depths of the winter in January and February. The CDC recommends getting the flu vaccine between September and October. The vaccine does tend to fade through the season, so you could become vulnerable at the end of the flu season if you get your vaccine too early.
Keep in mind that the flu virus never really goes away, but it spreads as people spend more time inside in the cold months. After you get the shot, you need about two weeks to build up antibodies to fight the flu.
Does the Flu Shot Have Any Side Effects
- Headaches and lightheadedness
- Low-grade fever
- Muscle aches
There are a few people who have allergic reactions that include hives, rapid heart rate, and swelling. If you have an allergic reaction, you should call 9-11.
Who Should and Who SHOULD NOT Get a Flu Shot
If you have an allergy to eggs, antibiotics, or MSG, you should talk to your health care provider before getting a flu shot. Babies over the age of six months can get vaccinated, but it is best to talk to your health care provider before giving a vaccine to a young child.
Pregnant women, people with serious food allergies and/or suppressed immune systems should talk to their health care providers before getting the flu vaccine. This is also the case for people who have
- Chronic asthma
- Blood disorders
- Metabolic disorders
- Diseases of the heart, kidney, or liver
- Disorders of the nerves
If you do not have any of these underlying conditions and are between the ages of two and 65, you should get vaccinated for the seasonal flu. If you have questions, talk to your health care provider.
Should I Get the Flu Vaccine if I’m Sick?
If you have a fever or a serious illness, you should wait until you feel better before you get the flu vaccine. Otherwise, if you have a cold or other minor illness, you should be able to get a vaccine. The health care facility will ask you to complete a screener to determine if you can be vaccinated.
While the flu vaccine is not perfect, it has been proven to reduce the severity of symptoms. Your health care provider can answer any questions you have about whether or not you should get a 2020 seasonal flu vaccine.