The Fight of Our Lives: Treating the Flu in a Pandemic
The transition from summer to fall brings many things; cooler temperatures, fall clothing, autumn leaves, Halloween decorations, and Influenza. Influenza, or the flu, is a respiratory virus that spreads via respiratory droplets and causes fatigue, fever, chills, and body aches. If that sounds familiar, that is because the spread and symptoms of the flu are very similar to COVID-19, the current global pandemic.
COVID-19 is deadlier than the flu, even here in Georgia. During the 2019-2020 flu season (October through May) approximately 1,500 Georgians died from the flu and in a roughly equivalent time period almost five times that number of Georgians have died from COVID-19.
As of Oct 1, COIVD-19 has infected 33.8 million worldwide, killed over 1 million worldwide and killed over 7,000 Georgians.
But, the flu isn’t exactly a slouch of a virus. The CDC estimates the 2019 to 2020 flu season lead to 38 million flu illnesses, 18 million visits to health care providers, 400,000 hospitalizations, and 22,000 deaths in the US alone. And that was considered a moderate flu. Worldwide the flu results in approximately 290,000 to 650,000 deaths a year.
Know the enemy
Both diseases share symptoms and this similarity will make identifying COVID-19 cases even harder. But we must differentiate between the two viruses, because while the flu may share symptoms with COVID-19, they are very different viruses. COVID-19 requires different treatment, makes people sicker, often lasts longer, and has a much higher mortality rate.
The task of differentiating between the viruses, and treating both, will add to the load on medical workers during a time when our health care system is already stressed. We must do what we can to prevent this double calamity from occurring.
It all hinges on this one shot
Luckily, existing guidance for COVID-19 (mask up, wash hands, and social distancing), are major parts of flu prevention too. Because people are already being told to do these things, we have an opportunity to have an unprecedented level of prevention against the flu, but only if these measures are used in conjunction with getting a flu shot.
Manufacture of the flu vaccine has ramped up significantly in anticipation of higher adherence to flu vaccine recommendations. Grocery stores and pharmacies are practically falling all over themselves to give you this shot.
We acknowledge this has not been a year of clear health guidance and information. And there is a growing body of confusing information available on the flu. This means that vaccine hesitance is a wide and seemingly growing problem. The good news is that the flu recommendations have been consistent year after year: wash your hands, cover your cough, and get your shot. We’ve also put together some helpful facts and information about the flu on the Flu Fighters page on our website.
We have armed you with information and now the only thing left for you to do is to get the shot. And tell all your friends to get one too.