HEALTH

Health experts warn of dangers of flu, COVID-19 during winter

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – As the temperatures begin to drop, health officials are keeping a close eye on the number of patients who test positive for the flu virus.

The flu virus typically begins spreading across the area in September and will continue through the start of the next year.

Symptoms usually include a fever, chills, body aches, a cough, and a sore throat.

However, health experts say patients now need to know whether they are experiencing the flu or COVID-19.

“I think it’s very certain that we will see COVID-19 this fall and winter as we already are. Whether or not we will see high rates of influenza remains to be seen. They’re developing tests that can test for both at the same time. They are very different viruses so it is very possible to get both. What we have seen from the Southern Hemisphere is that the influenza season was not quite as bad as it has been in years past. That is probably due to community masking and social distancing restrictions. I think that if we see masking and community distancing restrictions, then we can probably assume that the influenza season won’t be quite as bad. But certainly, having both of those diseases together could be a real double whammy,” said Dr. David Chansolme, INTEGRIS Medical Director of Infection Prevention.

Dr. Chansolme says since there are so many similarities in symptoms of the two viruses, patients will need to be tested to determine if they have the flu or COVID-19.

“Influenza does not have as high of a mortality rate as COVID-19 does, but either one of them can be very bad in a particular host. So they present pretty similarly, it’s just that more people with COVID-19 will end up in the hospital than with influenza more than likely,” Chansolme said.

Dr. Chansolme says that in the midst of the pandemic, it is important for residents to get a flu vaccine. Although it will not protect you against COVID-19, it could help you when it comes to the flu.

“It will protect you against the flu, and that’s important because you don’t want to get both of these at the same time. Every year, we go through the same flu vaccine myths that we have before. The bottom line is this: the flu vaccine is safe and effective. It doesn’t prevent against all types of flu but it is clear that if you get influenza vaccine, you are much less likely to get severely ill even if you get influenza than if you did not have the influenza vaccine, which makes a ton of sense. Having some immunity is better than having no immunity,” he said.

In addition to getting a flu vaccine, Dr. Chansolme says it is important to continue to practice social distancing, hand hygiene and wearing a mask to prevent both viruses from spreading.

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