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What Happens When COVID-19 and Flu Season Collide?

With COVID-19 still widely circulating, this year’s flu season will be unlike any other flu season we’ve previously encountered. Until more is known about the potential dangers of becoming infected with both the flu and the coronavirus at the same time, it makes sense to take every precaution—especially since physicians will have a difficult time determining if a person has both or either infections.

This is why, during the 2020-2021 COVID-19/flu season, getting a flu shot is more essential than ever. You’ll protect yourself, those you love, and potentially limit the burden on our already overtaxed healthcare system.

Can I Get the Flu and COVID-19 at the Same Time?

In a word, yes. Influenza  may make you more susceptible to other infections. Co-infection was common, in fact, during the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China.

Even worse, those who experienced co-infections were more likely to have poor health outcomes. This is similar to what happened during the 1918 flu epidemic, when many of the deaths that occurred were actually caused by a co-infection of influenza and staphylococcal pneumonia.

Adding to the danger, both COVID-19 and influenza attack the respiratory system. While little is currently known regarding what impact a dual infection might have on an otherwise healthy respiratory system, it’s safe to say that you don’t want to deal with both at the same time.

Although no conclusive evidence yet exists demonstrating that a consecutive infection would be more severe, it’s highly likely, speculates Charles Chiu, MD, PhD, an infectious disease expert at UC San Francisco. Damage from one infection could result in greater damage from the other.

In short, getting a flu shot and reducing your risk of influenza will give your immune system a better shot at fending off a potential COVID-19 infection.

What are the Benefits of the Flu Shot Against COVID-19?

Since the two infections are caused by two different viruses, a flu shot provides no direct protection against COVID-19. This doesn’t mean that getting a flu shot won’t help protect you from implications of COVID-19.

In fact, getting a flu vaccine not only protects you, it protects others, too. Every person who comes down with the flu can potentially spread it to others, and some of those who become infected will require hospitalization. Even in a mild flu season, this increased burden could easily overwhelm our healthcare system at a time when its resources are already stretched thin.

By getting a flu shot now and preventing the spread of influenza, you’ll be freeing up valuable healthcare personnel and equipment for those suffering from COVID-19, as well as those experiencing heart attacks, strokes, and other serious illnesses or injuries.

How Can I Tell Whether I Have COVID-19 or the Flu?

The symptoms of both viruses are similar and include fever, body aches, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, runny nose, sore throat, vomiting, and diarrhea. Unlike the flu, however, COVID-19 may also result in a loss of taste and smell.

Flu symptoms typically resolve within 5 to 7 days, whereas COVID-19 symptoms can linger for up to 2 weeks in mild cases, or for up to 6 or more weeks with severe infections. Nonetheless, symptoms of the two viruses are similar enough that the only way to clearly distinguish between them is through testing. With the potential for a possible co-infection, this means testing for both influenza as well as COVID-19.

What are the Benefits of a Flu Shot During COVID-19 and Flu Season 2020?

While we currently lack an approved vaccine to protect against COVID-19, we do have a readily available flu vaccine. Even if this year’s vaccine proves less effective than in previous years, it can still lessen symptoms and reduce hospitalizations at a time when even a small reduction could make a vital difference. For this reason, the benefits of a flu shot cannot be overstated during this mash-up of COVID-19 and flu season.

In addition, diligently following other precautionary measures will help protect against both viruses. Wearing masks, social distancing, practicing good hand hygiene, and avoiding crowds will be doubly important for flu season 2020.

Where Can I Find a Flu Shot Near Me?

MD Now makes it easy to protect yourself and others this season by offering convenient FREE* flu shots, along with testing for both influenza and COVID-19. FREE Flu shots and rapid point-of-care flu testing is available at all MD Now locations, located throughout Florida. COVID-19 tests are available at many MD Now clinics on a walk-in basis, although appointments are highly recommended.

Don’t put yourself or others at unnecessary risk during this critical time. Visit MDNow.com to find a FREE flu shot near you today. Do your part to limit the spread of the flu during this year’s critical COVID-19/flu season.

*Applies to seasonal quadrivalent flu shot. Regularly $40. Not applicable for high dose vaccine. Good while supplies last. Certain restrictions and exclusions apply. Not valid with any other offer. Offer valid until 03/31/2021.