It’s being called a ‘Twindemic’ as the cold and flu season begins and merges with COVID-19 still spreading in Texas.
The Texas Department of State Health Services encourages everyone to protect themselves, their families and their communities against respiratory illness throughout the flu season by getting immunized as soon as possible.
“The flu shot is important every year, especially for adults 65 or older, pregnant women, children younger than 5 years old, and other populations at high risk for developing serious complications from flu,” said Aaron Fox, Chief Business Development Officer and Public Information Officer, Matagorda County Hospital District. “But when you factor in another respiratory illness such as flu on top of the COVID-19 pandemic, concerns of overburdening the health care system, straining testing capacity, and increasing the risk of catching both diseases at once become very real.”
Fox said published CDC data show that the effectiveness of the flu vaccine from the last four flu seasons ranged from 29 to 48 percent.
“Getting a flu shot is not a perfect solution, but it’s the best solution we have,” Fox said. “Even at a lower effectiveness rate, the flu shot can have a major positive impact on the overall health of our community, and there’s strong clinical evidence to suggest the flu shot reduces the severity of illness in people who get vaccinated but still get sick.”
While the flu shot won’t prevent COVID-19, it will slow the circulation of flu in Texas and keep people out of the hospital, conserving medical resources needed to care for COVID-19 patients.
“We want as few people as possible to get sick this fall and winter,” said Dr. John Hellerstedt, DSHS commissioner. “That protects our health care professionals and health care system, which is key to defeating both COVID-19 and the flu. In addition, the same precautions Texans are already taking against COVID-19 – wearing masks, physical distancing and hand hygiene – will help slow the spread of influenza.”
Getting a flu shot is especially important for people at a higher risk for complications if they do get the flu, including those with chronic health conditions, pregnant women, young children and older adults. People who provide care to members of those groups should get a flu shot to protect themselves and to prevent spreading the flu to vulnerable people they care for in their families and communities.
Fox said Matagorda Regional Medical Center is prepared for another outbreak of COVID-19 with the advent of the flu season in the area.
“We’re certainly preparing for the worst, which would be the overlapping of flu season and a third wave of COVID-19 in our community,” Fox said. “But we’re equally optimistic that the safety measures our community is taking now to reduce and prevent the spread of COVID-19 will also reduce the transmission of the flu. We simply do not know what the future holds, so we put our efforts and resources into continued preparation and our faith in Almighty God.”
Influenza is caused by a number of related viruses. Symptoms usually start suddenly and include fever, body aches, chills, a dry cough, sore throat, runny nose, headaches and extreme fatigue and can last a week or longer.
DSHS encourages people to seek treatment promptly if they are experiencing flu symptoms. Antiviral drugs may help shorten the duration or lessen the severity of the flu if started within 48 hours of when symptoms begin.
Almost all types of flu vaccine available in the United States this flu season will protect against four strains of the flu virus: two strains of influenza A and two of influenza B. People can contact their health care provider, local health department or local pharmacy to find out where flu shots are available.
Presently, Matagorda County sits with only four active cases.
“The last time we were at 4 active COVID-19 cases was the end of May, and just eight weeks later, we were up over 300 active cases,” Fox said. “I think the majority of our residents know and understand how quickly things can change, and, whether we enjoy it or not, we recognize the importance of social distancing, proper hand hygiene, and wearing facemasks. Healthy people and thriving businesses are everyone’s goal, and I’m confident that we as Matagorda County residents will continue rising to the challenge just as we have before.”