Health officials encouraging flu shots amid pandemic

NOW: Health officials encouraging flu shots amid pandemic

SOUTH BEND, Ind.-- Every year folks are encouraged to get flu vaccines, and because of the COVID-19 virus already circulating, health officials are urging that this year may be the most important year for you to pull up your sleeves and get your flu shot.

“I really urge anyone who’s ever been skeptical or doubted it or reluctant to get a flu shot, of all years this is the year to get a flu shot. We don’t have a COVID vaccine, and so the one stop we can take to prevent is to get a flu shot,” St. Joseph Deputy Health Officer Dr. Mark Fox said.

During the 2018-2019 flu season, the Center for Disease Control estimates that over 35 million people got sick with the flu, with over 34,000 deaths in the U.S.

The precautions for preventing COVID are the same as flu, and symptoms for both, are also pretty similar.

St. Joseph County Deputy Health Officer Dr. Mark Fox said that these similarities can cause some confusion.

“Because of the overlap in symptoms for flu and for COVID, it can be very difficult to distinguish the two,” Dr. Fox said.

However, while getting a flu shot doesn’t always mean you won’t get the flu, Dr. Fox said that it will help reduce the risk of contracting it and will also help figure out what you may be sick with.

“You know in the setting of a pandemic, again because of the overlap, anything we can do to that helps clarify that picture, that makes it more likely that the symptoms you’re having are COVID related again we can focus attention appropriately and get people tested and into isolation as needed,” Dr. Fox said.

Dr. Fox said that all of the health and safety measures that are already in place to help reduce the risk of contracting COVID may also help lower the risk of getting the flu.

“You know all the mitigation strategies that we recommend for COVID actually may help reduce the risk of flu, so the hand hygiene, coughing, sneeze etiquette, physical distancing and masking, it has a double benefit,” Dr. Fox said. “Maybe we will have fewer cases of flu if people are really vigilant about the mitigation strategies.”

Dr. Fox urges folks to take symptoms seriously and to take proper action if you start to feel sick

“The biggest concern that I have is that because people are worried about going into isolation and quarantine that people will try to mask their illness and try to take medicine to try and hid their symptoms and try to send their kids to school or still go to work and that’s going to just compound the problem for everyone.”

To find out where to get vaccinated near you, click here.

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