HAMPTON ROADS, Va.— Some good news this flu season: It could be milder than years past based on countries in the southern hemisphere that have already experienced winter.
“We were doing all the social distancing, all the non-pharmaceutical interventions that we were doing for COVID, which, for another respiratory virus like influenza, is probably also helpful,” said Dr. Robert Bradshaw, Assistant Professor of Family and Community Medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School.
Bradshaw says wearing masks and hand washing because of coronavirus is also helping prevent the spread of the flu, but doctors caution the best course of action is still getting the vaccine.
“The recommendation is certainly that everyone from six months of age on up [get the vaccine] and the very young and the very old are most at risk,” said Bradshaw.
The peak of flu season is often from January to February, but doctors are urging people to get the vaccine now. Doctors recommend people start vaccinating around Oct. 1.
Doctors fear an influx of flu patients mixed with COVID-19 patients will burden an already strained health system if people choose not to vaccinate.
“It’s encouraging, I think, that it was a relatively light flu season, but it’s also, they say, because people in Australia and places like that we’re also getting their influenza vaccine,” said Bradshaw.
A common misconception is the vaccine can give you the flu, but that won’t happen because it doesn’t contain a live virus.
Doctors continue to warn that the common symptoms of COVID-19 and the flu can be identical.
“We don’t want you going into a clinic with a waiting room you know when you’re potentially at the risk of spreading disease,” said Bradshaw.
Anyone with a fever, cough or shortness of breath is encouraged to be even more cautious this season and call their physician first instead of risking the spread of either virus.