As the flu season approaches, we stand the risk of contracting another respiratory illness on top of COVID-19. Along with the risk to ourselves, the flu virus could pressure healthcare resources, strain testing capacity, and increase the risk of people catching both diseases at once.
That’s why getting a flu shot is more important than ever this year.
For both the flu and COVID-19, the elderly and those with underlying conditions are more susceptible. But the flu also hits children and spreads readily in schools. The more we all get a flu shot the more protected everyone will be.
The effectiveness of the flu vaccine can range from about 20 percent to 60 percent depending on how accurately scientists predict the circulating flu strains this year. Effectiveness also varies from person to person depending on age and health. Even if the vaccine doesn’t prevent the flu it may make the illness less serious.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a flu shot for everyone over six months of age. While it is possible to be infected with the flu and COVID-19 at the same time, it’s too soon to tell how common such co-infections will be.
Indeed, many questions remain unanswered. But what is clear is that the flu and COVID-19 both target the lungs. If one virus damages the lungs, the other virus stands the chance of creating greater damage.
In the 2018-19 flu season, about 49 percent of Americans received a flu vaccine, averting an estimated 4.4 million illnesses, 58,000 hospitalizations, and 3,500 deaths, according to the CDC. Experts hope more Americans will choose to get a flu shot this year—for themselves and for others.