Health officials: Flu shots more important than ever during pandemic

Health

KANAWHA COUNTY, WV (WOWK) – Health officials are trying to get parents to think about the upcoming flu season. With concerns of returning back to school without a coronavirus vaccine, they say parents should help protect their children with a vaccine we already have.

Although flu season seems to be the last thing people are focused on right now in our world of coronavirus, doctors say that the flu is coming this year whether the healthcare system is prepared or not.

“This year in particular, we’re worried because it’s going to look just like coronavirus. So, if you come in and we think you have the flu verses coronavirus, I can treat you for the flu. I can give you medicine to treat the flu, but I can’t give you medicine to treat coronavirus and the implications for spread are much more significant,” said Dr. Joseph Matusic, ABC Pediatrics.

So, getting a flu vaccine will be crucial to fight the spread of both. While it may not prevent COVID-19, it can help differentiate the diagnosis between the flu versus coronavirus if you have already had a flu shot.

Without it, you may be at risk for both viruses.

“Your worst case fears may be come true. The worst case is we have influenza mixed with COVID and we have a patient coming in and we don’t know what we’re going to have,” Matusic explained.

It isn’t just your family doctor who is worried. Hospitals have not yet seen what it looks like to have both illnesses coming through their doors.

“If someone becomes acutely ill in the hospital, we can’t put a COVID patient with a flu patient because they end up cross contaminating. We have to be extra careful throughout the healthcare system to make sure they get the appropriate treatment and the appropriate identification if it’s a hospital issue, and make sure they get placed in a safe environment,” said Dr. Sherri Young, Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.

But, cross contamination may not be the only problem. If a flood of flu and COVID cases are coming in, they may not be ready for both.

“The entire medical system is COVID fatigued right now. So, we’re looking at bed availability to make sure there’s enough resources to treat COVID. If we have an early onset of a flu pandemic, we really could break the back of the healthcare system,” Young exclaimed.

Flu vaccines may be available as soon as next week.

Follow Mackenzie Koch on Facebook and Twitter for the latest local and breaking news.

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