OUR VIEW: Get a flu shot, wear a mask

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, September 22, 2020

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Tens of thousands of Americans die from the flu every year, depending on how bad that flu season is. Doctors aren’t sure whether this upcoming season, in the midst of a pandemic, will be better or worse.

One thing they are sure about, though, is that people should get their shot and continue to follow health guidelines.

We are now on the cusp of 200,000 deaths caused by COVID-19. So, it makes perfect sense that we should all do what we can to prevent a bad flu season on top of that.

Flu season typically starts in November and lasts until March of the next year. It takes about two weeks for antibodies to develop, so try and get your shot before mid-October.

A flu shot is recommended for just about everybody. And doctors say there ought to be plenty of supplies – millions of flu shots are manufactured each and every year.

Flu shots are often free, depending on your healthcare coverage, and when they aren’t they’re not very expensive.

Last week, doctors explained to us that the same precautions you take to protect yourself from COVID-19 are effective in preventing flu. By continuing to wash your hands, keep your distance and wear your mask, you’re killing two birds with one stone.

It’s also possible that the flu shot itself will help protect your body from contracting COVID-19. Doctors aren’t sure if that’s the case, and likely won’t know for months. But they do know that it won’t hurt to get one.

In addition to the importance of protecting yourself, avoiding the flu can protect others.

We’d hate to see even more strain on our healthcare system. A bad flu season, coupled with another spike in COVID-19 cases, will lead to less hospital beds, shortages in medical supplies and the kind of havoc and overcrowding we saw earlier this year.

If you’ve already had COVID-19, there’s another reason to avoid contracting the flu. COVID-19 attacks the lungs and can cause sever and lasting damage.

Flu patients who have already had lung disease are likely to have a rougher time with the disease, and that includes those who have recovered from COVID-19.

Symptoms of the flu and COVID-19 are very similar, though some of the odd symptoms of COVID-19, such as the loss of taste, isn’t seen with the flu. If you develop these symptoms, though, don’t try to self-diagnose ¬— get tested.

Tests are available that can identify more than 15 different respiratory viruses. If you get one of those tests, it will tell you if you have COVID-19, the flu, both (yes, that’s possible), neither or something else.

So, get your flu shot. Monitor your health. If you develop symptoms, get tested. And during all of that, continue to be safe by wearing a mask, avoid large gatherings, staying home when possible and wash your hands.

If we all do those things, we can protect ourselves, our loved ones and others. We can reduce the strain on our healthcare workers. And we can avoid more unnecessary deaths.