Influenza season is back. It was an incredibly mild flu season last year, thanks largely to preventative measures around COVID-19. While the COVID-19 pandemic has been front and center for so long, it’s easy to forget those crummy days we’ve all had at some point thanks to the flu. There are a few important factors to keep in mind to make sure we’re all staying healthy and protecting those around us.
The kids are back in school.
Children are big drivers of influenza transmission during flu season. During last year’s flu season, almost all kids were doing distance learning, reducing exposure and transmission. The downside to that is kids’ immune systems were not exposed to variations of influenza that circulate each season but do not necessarily make them sick but do bolster their immune systems. That could make kids more susceptible to the flu this year. No one knows for sure how this change will impact his year’s flu season, but it’s a good possibility it will be much more active with kids back in school full time.
Get a flu shot. The COVID-19 vaccine won’t protect against influenza.
About 76% of Oregonians are now partially or fully vaccinated against COVID-19. That’s good – but it’s important to remember that the COVID-19 vaccine does not protect from influenza. With many hospitals still with impacted capacity due to treating COVID-19 patients, it is still very important to get the flu vaccine this year. It is safe to get the flu vaccine any time, even at the same time as a COVID-19 vaccine. Most neighborhood pharmacies offer flu shots. You can call 211 to find where you can get a flu vaccine in your area. According to the Oregon Health Authority:
"Anyone ages 6 months and older should get the flu vaccine, particularly those who are very young, very old, or have other chronic conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes. In addition, pregnant women should get vaccinated since children younger than 6 months can’t get the flu vaccine. Also, when a pregnant woman gets the vaccine, it means she not only avoids serious complications during pregnancy, but she also transmits precious flu antibodies to her unborn child. This year, the CDC says it’s very important from pregnant women to get both a flu and COVID-19 vaccine to protect themselves and their unborn child."
Don’t spread it around!
While each has some of the same symptoms like fever, cough, and sore throat, the flu and COVID-19 are separate viruses. Catching one virus does not make you more likely or less likely to catch the other. The major difference between the two is that with COVID-19, you may be infectious and not have any symptoms or know you are sick. With the flu, you are probably not infectious until you are feeling sick and have symptoms.