Tuesday, 15 November 2022 08:37

Health officials say getting flu shots this season remains vital

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Making sure you get both your flu shot and COVID booster is vital this season. Making sure you get both your flu shot and COVID booster is vital this season. Photo courtesy City of Houston HR Communications

 

Fall season in Houston usually means many things… change in weather where temperatures vacillate between shorts and tennis or light flannel and jeans.

With those weather changes also comes the increase in catching the flu. It is certainly understandable that people may mistake COVID symptoms with the flu and other respiratory viruses, including allergies, Houston Health Department Deputy Local Health Authority Dr. Janeana White said.

“The flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses,” she said. “COVID-19 is caused by infection from coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) which was first identified in 2019. The flu is caused by infection with a flu virus.”

COVID-19, the common cold, seasonal allergies, and the flu have many similar symptoms.  Unlike COVID-19, the flu and the common cold, seasonal allergies aren't caused by a virus, White explained. Seasonal allergies are immune system responses triggered by exposure to allergens, such as seasonal tree or grass pollens.

White said specific testing is needed to tell what the illness is and to confirm a diagnosis. “Having a medical professional administer a specific test that detects both the flu and COVID-19 allows you to get diagnosed and treated for that specific virus,” she said.

She also said getting treated early for COVID-19 and the flu can reduce your risk of getting very sick. Testing can also reveal if someone has both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time, although this is uncommon.

“People with the flu and COVID-19 at the same time can have more severe disease than people with either flu or COVID-19 alone.” White said.

White said people should always ask their doctor to test them for both the flu and COVID-19 to make sure they cover all bases.

“Doctors understand you cannot tell the difference between the flu and COVID-19 by the symptoms alone. They have similar symptoms, so testing people with symptoms is the best way to confirm diagnoses,” she said.

Again, to ensure all bases are being covered, asking your doctor to be tested for both the flu and COVID-19 is encouraged, White advised.

White said according to the health department’s monthly Imm Trac2  report, from July 1 through Sept. 30, 2022, there have been 91,966 administered doses thus far for this flu season.

She also said If you recently had COVID-19, you may consider delaying your next vaccine dose (whether a primary dose or booster) by three months from when your symptoms started or, if you had no symptoms, when you first received a positive test.

COVID 19 vs flu social rev4 14 003 web

“Reinfection is less likely in the weeks and months after infection,” White explained. “However, certain factors, such as personal risk of severe disease, or risk of disease in a loved one or close contact to someone, the local COVID-19 Community Level, and the most common COVID-19 variants currently causing illness, could be reasons to get a vaccine sooner rather than later.”

Because it is unclear what impact the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will have on the flu season in the U.S., White made the following recommendations:

  • Understand Influenza viruses and SARS-CoV-2 may co-circulate.
  • People may be co-infected with influenza and SARS-CoV-2.
  • There could be more influenza than the last two seasons because of reduced population immunity from fewer recent infections and relaxation of measures to reduce COVID-19.
  • Getting the vaccine is the best way to prevent the flu and COVID-19.

 

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