LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - As much as people talk about COVID every day, medical experts say we can’t lose sight of another virus coming our way - the flu. Last year, we had a bad flu season for kids. It was the deadliest outside of a pandemic year. We don’t have a COVID vaccination available right now but, we do have a flu vaccine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say this fall and winter are going to probably be one of the most difficult times that we have experienced in American public health.
“Typical flu season starts around October 1st,” Dana Bageon, UofL Health family nurse practitioner, said.
Health experts warn that the flu plus the coronavirus pandemic could send us into what they are calling a twindemic with both deadly viruses circulating at the same time.
“Now you have the potential to be co-contaminated having both the flu and COVID,” Bageon said. “It will be difficult to differentiate. So you would have to now have to screened for both if you were to get ill.”
Flu vaccine manufacturers have ramped up production making tens of millions more doses than last season. There are two new flu vaccines designed to protect older people, who are especially vulnerable to the virus. The big question is will people take advantage of it?
According to the CDC, fewer than half of American adults, and about 60 percent of kids, typically get the flu shot each year. If you can’t take the shots this year, the flu mist is also out there. Either way, it can decrease the chances that you’ll get the flu, or if you do get the flu you’ll get a milder case.
Anyone six months and older is eligible and the best time is the end of September or early October. It takes about two weeks to kick in.
While health experts are hopeful social distancing, hand washing and use of masks will help protect people from getting the flu, Bageon said we don’t know that yet.
“Those measure do help us from spreading it, but it does not indicate whether or not indicate whether the season will be mild or severe,” Bageon said.
Bageon said you don’t want to end up in the hospital with the flu. In a few months, the burden on our hospitals may change and you don’t want to end up taking up a hospital bed that a COVID patient would need.