Influenza (flu) is a common and contagious respiratory virus that can cause serious illness. For the very young and the elderly, this can even be fatal. Flu season typically runs from October through April, when people are more likely to be indoors due to chilly temperatures and in close contact.
This year, flu season poses a greater risk than normal because of a likely spike in COVOID-19 transmissions during the winter months. We are still learning much about the new variants of the coronavirus. One trend that is being noticed is the cold-like symptoms for those testing positive, which can often fly under the radar when other bugs like the flu are going around. We recommend talking with your provider about getting any vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccine and the seasonal flu shot. Even people who only experience mild flu symptoms each year should get the flu shot, for several important reasons:
-It can protect you from getting infected with the flu.
-It can keep you from passing the flu on to someone who is greatly vulnerable to respiratory illnesses.
-It can help make your illness less severe if you do get sick with the flu.
-The number of COVID-19 cases will likely increase during flu season.
-Even mild flu may make you more susceptible to becoming infected with COVID-19.
-Being infected with COVID-19 at the same time as the flu may negatively impact your recovery.
Seasonal flu shots can protect against three or four strains of influenza. The flu shot does not contain a live virus, so it cannot give you the flu. Once the vaccine is received, it takes two weeks for it to be fully effective, so it is important to continue practicing safe hygiene.
To protect yourself and others from flu and COVID-19, frequently wash your hands thoroughly with soap, wear a mask, avoid close contact with sick people, and practice social distancing.
The symptoms of these two viruses are nearly identical. Flu symptoms start suddenly. They appear about 1 to 4 days after a person is exposed to the flu. COVID-19 can initially feel like the flu, although some people experience no symptoms at all. Like flu, common COVID-19 symptoms are fever and cough. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus.
Both the flu virus and COVID-19 can have similar symptoms including:
-Fever or feeling feverish/chills
-Runny or stuffy nose
-Muscle or body aches
-Vomiting or diarrhea. (With flu, this is more common in children)
-New loss of taste or smell (COVID-19 only)
-Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing (COVID-19 only)
The best way to know which virus you have is to be tested for them. There is still much the medical community does not yet know about the new coronavirus, so this list does not include all possible symptoms. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.
The majority of people have no problem with the flu shot, with the rare exception of those who have medical conditions that may risk an adverse reaction, such as a severe or life-threatening allergy to the vaccine. It is not appropriate to give the flu shot to children younger than 6 months of age.
For additional questions and answers about the seasonal flu shot, or the COVID-19 vaccine, talk with your primary care provider. You can get both the COVID-19 vaccine and the flu shot at Murray County Medical Center.