COVID-19 pandemic makes preventing the seasonal flu more critical than ever

DDPHE reminds residents that prevention is key: Get a flu shot, keep washing those hands~

DENVER – The Denver Department of Public Health & Environment (DDPHE) reminds everyone that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, reducing the spread of other illnesses, such as the seasonal flu, is more critical than ever.

“A surge in seasonal flu while the pandemic is still a factor could seriously strain our hospitals and other resources,” says Robert McDonald, Executive Director of DDPHE and the Public Health Administrator for Denver. “The number one way to avoid getting the flu is to get that flu shot, which is available right now.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that everyone age 6 months and over get a flu shot in September or October. However, getting vaccinated anytime during the flu season will provide protection from the influenza virus.

The CDC also notes that because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone, and testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis – which could put an additional burden on testing capacity.

The flu is an illness caused by a virus that usually affects the nose, throat, and lungs. It is easily spread from person to person. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times, can lead to death. Anyone can get the flu, but there are some groups of people who have a higher risk of more severe symptoms and serious complications, including adults age 65 and over; children under age 5, but especially younger than 2; pregnant women; and those with other serious ailments, including asthma, diabetes, heart disease or a weakened immune system. American Indians and Alaska Natives also are at higher risk.

The CDC estimates that between October 1, 2019, and April 4, 2020, 39 to 56 million people got the flu, resulting in 18 to 26 million medical visits. Moreover, this resulted in 410,000 to 740,000 flu hospitalizations and 24,000 to 62,000 flu deaths.

Most people who get the flu will recover in a few days to less than two weeks, but some will develop complications (such as pneumonia) that can be life-threatening and result in death.

Based on CDC recommendations, DDPHE has outlined three steps that can protect people from the flu:

  • Get a flu shot.
  • Practice everyday preventive measures: Avoid sick people, stay home when sick unless seeking medical assistance, and wash hands and high-contact surfaces frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer. Always cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or an elbow.
  • Take antiviral medications as prescribed by a doctor, preferably within two days of becoming ill, which will not cure the flu but can make symptoms milder and shorten the duration of the illness.

For more information on seasonal flu, including a list of symptoms and other resources, visit DDPHE’s influenza website or the CDC’s recommendations for flu vaccination.

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