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Flu season is approaching, and the virus that causes COVID-19 continues to circulate at high levels, putting a strain on local hospitals. Flu vaccination provides the best protection against influenza illness and can help to reduce the burden on local hospitals.
Flu activity was low last year because of flu vaccination, physical distancing, masking, school closures, business and event restrictions, and limited travel. But with many of the COVID-19 restrictions lifted this year, flu has a higher chance of spreading in the community.
“We can’t predict how severe this flu season will be, but we can all do our part to prevent flu illness and hospitalizations by getting vaccinated,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County health officer and Public Health director. “And those not yet vaccinated against COVID-19 – or those who are eligible for a booster dose – can safely get flu and COVID-19 vaccines at the same time.”
Flu can occur in any month, but transmission primarily occurs October through May. It can take up to two weeks for protection from the flu vaccine to build up. Getting immunized now ensures protection once flu activity intensifies, and protection will last throughout flu season.
The flu vaccine is safe and recommended for everyone 6 months and older. Immunization not only protects the person receiving the vaccine, but higher immunization rates also help to protect those most vulnerable to complications. Young children, pregnant people, people 65 and older and people with asthma, diabetes, heart disease and long-term health conditions are at greatest risk of complications from flu.
While most people with flu do not need to seek medical care, flu symptoms can be severe. Common flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches, body aches and fatigue. People who have flu symptoms and are in a high-risk group, or who are worried about their illness, should contact their health care provider.
Many flu and COVID-19 symptoms are similar. Health care providers may recommend testing for both flu and COVID-19 while both viruses are circulating.
Flu vaccine is widely available at local medical offices and pharmacies. Call the Help Me Grow Washington hotline at 800.322.2588 to find nearby flu vaccine locations.
In addition to immunization, everyday practices can reduce the chance of catching or spreading flu and COVID-19.
- Wear a cloth face covering when around people you don’t live with.
- Stay home when sick and limit contact with others.
- Avoid close contact with sick people.
- Cough or sneeze into your arm or cover your nose and mouth with a tissue. Throw away the tissue and wash your hands.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer is an alternative when soap and water aren’t available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
To learn more about flu, flu vaccine and flu activity in Washington visit www.KnockOutFlu.org. Learn more about the similarities and differences between flu and COVID-19 on the CDC website.
Source: Clark County Health Department