NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — As the coronavirus pandemic rages on, doctors are urging people to get their flu shots this year.
The viruses share symptoms, and fighting an outbreak of both could put more stress on our already exhausted health care system, CBS2’s Jessica Layton reported Monday.
Pharmacies are already advertising shots for the flu, a virus that by itself can overwhelm health care facilities. Add in a collision with an ongoing crisis like COVID-19 and doctors are understandably bracing for disaster.
“The big concern that I have is people getting infected with both. That’s why flu vaccination is incredibly and extremely important for the 2020 fall,” said Dr. Niket Sonpal of the Touro College of Medicine.
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Sonpal said there was only about a 47% flu vaccination rate last year nationwide. This year the hope if for 70%.
“Flu season is around October to February, so basically in next couple weekswe want to start ramping up to get your flu shot,” Sonpal said. “The flu vaccine does not cause the flu. That’s our body accustomizing itself and creating those antibodies. It’s the immune reaction.”
Adding to confusion, symptoms for both viruses can include fever, aches and exhaustion.
“It’s going to be difficult for health care workers. Testing will be important. The good news is that flu testing is very quick,” Sonpal said.
But coronavirus test results can still take several days. That’s why doctors say the Food and Drug Administration clearing a brand new, rapid saliva test could be a game changer.
“Anything that’s rapid is going to make our lives a lot easier in terms of diagnosing infections,” said Dr. Jake Deutsch of Cure Urgent Care.
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Deutsch said he’s encouraged that New Yorkers seem to be following safety protocols, but Dr. Deborah Birx, a top White House coronavirus official, said Monday she wishes as a nation we could have done better early on.
“When Italy locked down, I mean people were not allowed out of their houses. Americans don’t react well to that kind of prohibition,” Birx said.
Doctors say whether it’s the flu or COVID-19, good hand-washing, social distancing and mask wearing will be key in preventing both viruses this season.