Everyone knows that the seasonal flu spans from October to approximately April annually. With COVID-19 still active and increasing in most Illinois regions, what should we know about how these viruses will come together? We’ve been hearing this question a lot lately, especially as parents remain hopeful that schools may return to in person learning. I asked Dr. Khare to weigh in and explain.
Q: We’ve heard that the flu and COVID may create the perfect storm. Is this true? What should we expect?
A: Both the flu and COVID-19 can be very serious for some individuals, particularly those who are older or have underlying health conditions. When both occur at the same time this fall and winter, I expect to see a few things happen. First, I anticipate more closures. Flu symptoms and COVID-19 symptoms can be similar. The current policies in place at schools and businesses require that symptomatic individuals be sent home and quarantined until a negative test can be produced. As such, I expect it to be difficult for some to remain open during the time period when both flu and COVID-19 are rampant.
Second, I expect to see more demand for testing. Businesses and schools want to get back to in person settings. Many colleges and universities are requiring weekly COVID-19 tests for staff and students. I expect this may become more common in the coming months. Innovative Express Care is continuing to ramp up our testing capacity to serve the community. We will also be opening two additional testing sites to provide quick and efficient testing for those who require testing.
Q: I’m inconsistent with getting my flu shot because I’m not at high risk of getting the seasonal flu. Is it more important to get it this year because of COVID?
A: I strongly recommend that everyone get their flu shot. This is a simple and easy way to prevent, or at least significantly reduce, the chance of getting influenza. With COVID-19 rising in our community, I do think it’s more important, as early flu symptoms are identical to symptoms of COVID-19. In addition, the flu can cause your body to become more susceptible to other illnesses such as bacterial pneumonia. Flu shots are starting to become available. We’ll have them at Innovative Express Care by late September and start giving them as advised by the CDC.
Q: What do I do if I experience symptoms that could be flu or COVID? Should I go to a COVID-19 testing site or call my doctor for a flu test?
A: Consulting with your physician to discuss your symptoms is the best first step. Many offices, like Innovative Express Care, offer telemedicine consults so you can share your symptoms and seek medical advice regarding what steps to take. The Innovative Express Care COVID-19 testing site will offer flu and virus swab testing this fall and winter so both virus swabs can be done at the same time.
For more information about the flu, COVID-19, or to schedule an appointment, visit us online.