With fall–and flu season–fast approaching, COVID-19 is still circulating the country, and experts fear the combination may overwhelm already strained healthcare systems. Influenza accounts for hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations each year. Children younger than 5 years old–especially those younger than 2– are at high risk of developing serious complications from the seasonal virus. Hospitals often reach peak capacity during the flu season, and if COVID-19 cases also surge, it will be difficult for medical centers to maintain life-saving resources. Will there be enough open beds, oxygen, ventilators, masks and gowns to provide critical care?
To make matters more complicated, the two viral diseases share similar symptoms: fever, cough, shortness of breath and severe fatigue. As parents, you may soon need to decipher whether a sick child has flu or COVID-19. Should you quarantine or visit the doctor? Researchers are still looking into distinguishing factors.
The possibility of a “twindemic” is undoubtedly frightening. Fortunately, there are steps we can all take to protect our families, and reduce the impact of this year’s flu.
Take precautions this flu season.
- Get Vaccinated. As the world anxiously awaits a COVID-19 vaccine, it’s important to remember that a safe and effective flu vaccine already exists. The CDC has worked with manufacturers to ensure that extra flu vaccine is available this year. Get flu shots for the whole family this September or early October, and encourage your friends to do the same. We can all do our part to prevent respiratory illness from spreading in our communities.
- Keep your distance. The social distancing measures we’ve learned during the COVID-19 pandemic may help to slow influenza. Avoid close proximity to others when possible.
- Wear your mask. Masks help protect us from both COVID-19 and Influenza, which spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks or sings. Reduce the airborne transmission of viral disease by wearing your mask indoors and out. New evidence shows it also helps the wearer.
- Wash your hands. Frequent handwashing is a simple and powerful tool to prevent illness. You know the drill: soap, water, and at least 20 seconds of scrubbing. Help your little ones do the same.
2020’s public health crises continue to challenge our country, but we’re stronger together. Protect yourself and your loved ones with a flu shot and basic safety measures, and know that our medical team is here to provide quality care and advice when you need it.