2020 flu season complicated by COVID pandemic
In a world currently dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic, seasonal influenza has not gotten much attention this year.
But health officials stress that people should not forget about it and encourage them to take the usual steps to guard themselves against it. In fact, taking steps to prevent the flu could help slow down the pandemic.
"The outlook for the flu season is all structured around the COVID pandemic. If it is a bad flu season, it raises the risk of diminishing your body's immunity and then catching COVID on top of that, which could lead to possible hospital overwhelming," said Dr. Joanna McCabe, family nurse practitioner at the Crook County Health Department. "If we can get on top of it and prevent flu, we can prevent COVID from running rampant in highly vulnerable people and populations as well – or at least decrease that chance."Like other years, vaccination remains one of the top prevention recommendations. People can already get flu vaccines at the health department, Mosaic Medical, local pharmacies and at St. Charles Family Care. McCabe went on to say that Mosaic Medical will be offering drive-thru vaccinations for its patients, St. Charles is working on its own curbside model, and the health department will provide parking lot vaccines for ages 10 and older.
"We are also working on a mass vaccine clinic for the community," she said, "possibly at the (Crook County) Fairgrounds."
Other flu prevention measures mirror those already recommended to slow COVID spread. They include frequent hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home if you have flu symptoms.
Regarding symptoms, McCabe said that flu and COVID affect the body in similar ways. Both illnesses can cause a fever, a cough, shortness of breath and fatigue as well a sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, body aches and headaches. Some people experience vomiting or diarrhea, but that is a more common flu symptom for children.
One symptom that sets COVID apart from the flu is a loss of taste or smell. This is not a symptom of the flu but has become a common symptom of COVID.
"We are seeing that fairly often in our (Crook County) cases," McCabe said.
Another factor that points to COVID is exposure to the illness.
"If you have a known exposure to COVID and you start developing those symptoms, err on the side of caution and contact your provider," McCabe said.
While those factors can help determine whether a person is dealing with the COVID or the flu, people are still encouraged to contact their primary care provider if symptoms of either affliction emerge. That way, they can get treated for the appropriate illness.
"A trained provider is probably your best bet to determine the difference," McCabe said.
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