Start The Fall Season On a Healthy Note. Get Your Flu Shot!
While the annual impact of seasonal flu pales in comparison to the nearly 13 million Americans who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and the 260,000 who have died, the impact of both flu and COVID-19 surges taking place simultaneously, could place undue strain on our health system as hospitals and physician offices, would potentially need to increase staffing and supplies to continue to provide the best care for patients. In extreme scenarios, if hospitals are impacted, patients with flu or COVID-19 could be redirected to other hospitals or clinics further from their homes.
“The flu vaccines are scientifically and historically proven to be both safe and effective,” says Jaime Diaz MD, chief medical officer of PIH Health Downey Hospital and PIH Health Good Samaritan Hospital, and Medical Director of PIH Health Urgent Care System. “This year, as COVID-19 remains prevalent in Southern California, flu shots are more important than ever. While they won’t protect you from COVID-19, they will protect you from infection by seasonal flu and can help you avoid becoming infected with flu and COVID-19 at the same time, which could lead to serious complications. Each year in the United States, approximately 200,000 people are hospitalized with flu and 36,000 die of the disease. These numbers would be significantly lower if everyone received a flu shot.”
Flu vaccinations are even more important for those at high risk, such as those over age 65, those with heart disease, pulmonary disease, diabetes and asthma. Fortunately, flu shots are readily available and easy to get. Most primary care physician offices, urgent care centers and pharmacies have them.
“Not only do flu shots protect you from the most common strains of the virus, they also help your body build up your immunity against the flu which can make your symptoms less severe, in the event that you are infected,” says Dr. Diaz. “And since flu symptoms are very similar to those of COVID-19—cough, sore throat, fever, nasal congestion, headache, body ache and difficulty breathing to name a few—having a flu shot can help your doctor make a faster and more accurate diagnosis should you become ill. In addition to protecting you, flu shot helps reduce the spread of disease in our community.”
PIH Health recommends the flu vaccination during this time because the flu season typically begins in the fall and lasts through spring. Once you get your flu shot, continue taking all the precautions you can against COVID-19 because these preventive measures, wearing a mask, sanitizing heavily touched surfaces, avoiding crowds and staying six feet away from others who do not live in your household or who may have been exposed to COVID-19, will also protect you from seasonal flu. It is highly recommended that you be tested if you are exposed or develop symptoms.
“In the next month Americans will celebrate some of our favorite holidays such as Hanukkah and the Christmas season,” says Dr. Diaz. “This year, we need to think about modifying our plans, limiting the size of our gatherings and social distancing at family events, so that we can share the joys of the season in a safe way.”