Flu versus COVID-19: What you need to know, according to a local infectious disease expert

Flu Vaccine
Posted at 3:04 PM, Sep 08, 2021

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - With all the talk about COVID-19 and booster shots, we may have overlooked the fact that there is another virus that will soon be present: The flu.

"The symptoms for influenza and COVID- 19 are very similar; it will create a lot of confusion," said Dr. Bogdan Nueghebauer, an infectious disease expert with Sentara Healthcare.

Nuegehbauer says both viruses can present themselves exactly the same, with overlapping symptoms such as fever, chills and respiratory issues.

"A diagnosis is made only through testing, so if you have any symptoms of a viral infection, the best thing is to get in touch with primary care provider," he said.

He says many physicians will soon likely test for COVID-19 and flu simultaneously, so the best defense is to get the flu shot.

"[The] current recommendation is to vaccinate anyone 6 months of age and older," said Nueghebauer.

A common question many have is: Can you get the COVID-19 vaccine and flu shot at the same time? Dr. Nueghebauer says it's perfectly safe.

"If you want to space them out, though, it's fine," he said.

He recommends getting the flu shot now as the season begins in just a few short months.

"This is why we want to vaccinate as early as possible, and the ideal time is September or October in order to allow enough time for immunity to develop," he said.

Another burning question: Should pregnant women get the flu shot, the COVID-19 shot or both?

"Scientific data suggests the COVID-19 vaccine and influenza vaccine are safe in pregnant in women," he said.

His last piece of advice is to mask up and stay socially distant, as it proved successful with a dismal flu season in our area last year.

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