Flu season comes every year without fail, but it’s expected to be especially bad this year because of the added stress of COVID-19. Two respiratory diseases hitting the population at the same time will likely take a pretty big toll medically. The healthcare system is already overburdened with coronavirus alone. That’s why scientists are feeling particularly concerned about how flu season will hit this year.
Generally, hospitals have been known to fill up from flu patients in December and January in a normal year. The main issue now is that hospitals are already facing a huge influx of COVID-19 patients. If influenza patients are also needing care but the hospitals don’t have enough room, where will they go?
The American Medical Association (AMA) encourages people to get a flu vaccine every year, but their flu shot campaign with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Ad Council will be even bigger for the coming flu season. Hopefully, this preventative measure will help decrease the burden on hospitals.
Unfortunately, there are many overlapping symptoms of COVID-19 and the flu, so in order to determine which illness a patient has, two tests will be needed. There is also the possibility that a person could contract both diseases at the same time, which could make their symptoms more serious. The elderly population and those with underlying health conditions are the most at risk in that regard.
Experts are feeling hopeful that the extra preventative measures already being taken, like social distancing, frequent hand-washing, and wearing masks, could help to reduce the spread of the flu. Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Kristen Englund told NBC, “If we look at what they’ve been seeing in Australia, and we use the Southern Hemisphere to predict what our next season is going to be, they’ve had a quieter flu season.”
Between that and more people opting in for the flu shot this year, the double-whammy of COVID-19 running into flu season could be curtailed. This is good news considering that the 2019-2020 flu season led to 740,000 hospitalizations in the US.
The flu shot is a simple thing people can do to help unburden the healthcare system this year and prevent as many deaths as possible.