Collision Course: COVID-19 meets the flu season

Posted at 6:15 PM, Aug 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-14 20:00:26-04

It’s the team-up no one really wanted to see. The traditional flu season and COVID-19. Their co-existence could mean major trouble.

“That’s what we’re all just waiting to see,” says Dr. Tina Stefanski. “What happens when we see the flu and COVID at the same time.”

Just the flu by itself is problem enough. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), in the last 10 years, 360,000 people died from the flu.. just the flu, all by itself, with no help from the Coronavirus. And now? This double-dose poses all kinds of questions.

“Because you can have the flu or be infected with both,” begins Stefanski, “and we don’t know what kind of clinical picture that will be right, what that will do to someone’s health.”

Typical symptoms of the flu are fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue and a runny nose. But wait: Those symptoms reflect COVID-19 as well. So is it the flu? Or is it COVID-19? Is there a way to tell the difference?

“That’s a really, really hard one,” answers Stefanski honestly.

One key distinction may be how quickly a particular health storm hits your body, how quickly you feel the effects. “Sudden onset. That’s really usually a tell-tale sign of the flu,” explains Stefanski. “It usually just hits you, and suddenly you develop these symptoms.”

COVID-19, on the other hand, often starts with someone just feeling out of sorts, before it really strikes. “With COVID, we’re starting to hear, ‘haven’t been feeling good for a couple of days’.”

Stefanski says there are some common sense things to think about such as: What’s typical for this particular adult or child? Does he or she typically get headaches? Does he or she typically get allergies at a certain time of the year? Then there’s a good chance it might just be that person’s ‘normal’, and NOT COVID-19 or the flu. “Trying really hard to figure out if the child normally has allergies a certain time of the year, then that might be the case if they don’t have any known risk of exposure.”

With COVID everywhere, and the flu about to run alongside, what’s her best advice? “Get your flu shot so you’ll be less likely to get the flu,” Stefanski quickly offers.

And that way, Stefanski says there’s a good chance the flu vaccine will cut down on the number of opponents you and your body have to face.

“So, you try to eliminate at least one viral infection, so it’s great for you and the community and the school.”

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