With flu season fast approaching, health officials are urging the public to help contain the spread of influenza and avoid another outbreak amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“The two viruses are very similar, and it’s going to make this flu season very challenging,” said infectious disease specialist Dr. Rekha Murthy, vice president of medical affairs and associate chief medical officer at Cedars-Sinai. “The good news is we have a powerful tool at our disposal to combat influenza – the flu shot.”
In addition to getting the flu vaccine, it’s critical to remain vigilant about safety measures that can prevent the spread of the flu and COVID-19: sanitizing hands, wearing masks, physical distancing, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home when sick.
“The choices we make not only affect our own health but the health of others as well,” Murthy said. “Many people may be feeling pandemic fatigue, but we need to protect ourselves and everybody around us.”
Murthy pointed out that COVID-19 and the flu have “a lot of overlapping symptoms,” including fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle pain or body aches, and headaches.
“However, there are some precursors to COVID-19 – loss of taste and smell, nausea and/or diarrhea – that appear to be less associated with the flu,” Murthy said.
“If you develop the overlapping symptoms, it’s going to be important to recognize early that you could have either illness, to be aware of what symptoms you’ve been experiencing, and to determine when to seek testing or medical care,” Murthy added. “You should isolate yourself for at least 10 days or until your symptoms resolve or you see your doctor.”
Murthy added that everyone over 6 months of age should get the flu vaccine in order to “help avoid a so-called ‘twindemic’ in which the healthcare system is overwhelmed with patients suffering from COVID-19 or the flu.”
The flu shot will not protect against COVID-19 – they’re caused by different viruses – but it will lower the chances of having both COVID-19 and the flu at the same time, Murthy said. If someone tests positive for COVID-19, they should wait until they test negative to get their flu shot.
Cedars-Sinai is located at 8700 Beverly Blvd. For information, visit cedars-sinai.org.
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