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Flu Season During the COVID-19 Pandemic

11/5/2020
The world has taken incredible strides to control the spread of COVID-19 as we continue to make effective choices about our household’s preventative measures during the pandemic. With the flu season upon us, we must take extra precautions to limit influenza infection and decrease the stress on healthcare workers.
 

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The world has taken incredible strides to control the spread of COVID-19 as we continue to make effective choices about our household’s preventative measures during the pandemic such as wearing masks, social distancing, hand washing, carrying hand sanitizer or disinfecting wipes, and deciding whether to sanitize groceries. With the flu season upon us, we must take extra precautions to limit influenza infection and decrease the stress on healthcare workers.

The influenza virus (Flu) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses that are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a new coronavirus and the flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses. It may be hard to tell the difference between infection from the two viruses based on symptoms alone, as the flu and COVID-19 have many similar symptoms.

The flu and COVID-19 can have varying degrees of signs and symptoms, ranging from no symptoms to severe symptoms. Common symptoms that COVID-19 and the flu share include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, sore throat, runny nose, muscle pain, headache, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. Some signs and symptoms more commonly seen in COVID-19 are change in or loss of taste and smell which can easily be mistaken for congestion.

However, there are also some key differences between flu and COVID-19. One difference is that COVID-19 seems to spread more easily than the flu and causes more serious illnesses in some people. COVID-19 can also take longer before people show symptoms and people can be contagious for longer periods of time as compared to being infected with the influenza virus. Lastly, there is a vaccine to prevent the flu, but there is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19.
 

PREVENTION MEASURES FOR THE FLU AND COVID-19

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COVID-19 and the influenza virus spread in the same way, by tiny droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze, or talk. Social distancing and other necessary mitigation tactics have disrupted the way we operate in 2020 but offer us a silver lining as the same practices can minimize the spread of the influenza virus as well.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes it is likely that during the months of fall through winter, the flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both continue spreading. In this context, getting a flu vaccine will be more important than ever for the health and well-being of individuals and families. The CDC recommends that all people 6 months and older get a yearly flu vaccine to make it easier for healthcare workers to diagnose COVID-19.

Getting a flu vaccine will not protect against COVID-19, however the vaccine will reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization and death and can also help conserve potentially scarce healthcare resources. It is also possible to have the flu, as well as other respiratory illnesses, and COVID-19 at the same time and the resulting impact could be even more severe than having either infection alone. Health experts are still studying how common this can be, but a flu outbreak in a location that is also currently experiencing a high rate of COVID-19 cases could overwhelm healthcare professionals and hospitals.

Other prevention measures to protect against COVID-19 and the flu this season include wearing masks in public and near sick or high-risk individuals, washing your hands often, maintaining social distancing guidelines, staying home when sick, getting diagnostic testing when suspecting the flu or COVID-19, and getting proper sleep, diet, and exercise.
 

TREATMENT OF THE FLU AND COVID-19

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When infected with the flu virus, fever and aches should end within five days. Coughing and fatigue or the feeling of not having energy can last about two weeks after falling sick with the flu. You should contact your doctor if symptoms get worse as the flu can turn into pneumonia, and very severe cases can be fatal. Such severe cases may even lead to hospitalization or death. Treatments include rest, fluids, a fever reducer such as acetaminophen, and an antiviral medicine to reduce the amount of time you have the flu and prevent complications.

COVID-19 poses greater risks as there are not many options for treatment. Some people may never experience any symptoms, but continue to spread the virus. Recovery time is also prolonged in COVID-19 patients and can take up to two weeks for mild cases or six weeks or more for severe cases. COVID-19 can be fatal as it may lead to lasting organ damage, hospitalization, or death. COVID-19 also has a high possibility of resulting in pneumonia and lasting damage to the lungs, kidneys, heart, and brain. Rest, a fever reducer, and cough medicine help treat mild cases. More serious cases may require hospitalization, breathing support with a ventilator, or other therapies.