And now the flu, too

Nov 5th, 2020 | By | Category: Spotlight

As if the pandemic wasn’t enough, now there’s a flu season to worry about.

Like COVID-19, the flu is a serious respiratory illness. Last season, the flu killed 13 people in Pierce County, including two children. The year before, flu claimed 42 Pierce County lives.

Health officials warn that this new influenza season, which began in October and is expected to continue through next April, will be unlike any other because COVID-19 also will be circulating.

“A vaccine doesn’t exist yet for COVID-19, but we have one for the flu,” said Nigel Turner, director of the communicable disease division of the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. “The flu shot is your best protection against the flu, and it will help keep ill people out of hospitals that are helping people affected by COVID-19.”

Anyone older than six months should get a flu shot every year to protect themselves and those around them, officials say. Even if you do get sick with the flu, your illness may be milder and shorter.

Along with getting a flu shot, people can take other precautions against the flu the same way they’ve been guarding against COVID-19—wash your hands, cover your coughs, stay home when you’re sick, exercise social distancing, and wear a mask.

“With COVID-19’s continued presence in our communities, something as basic as a flu shot is even more important this year to keep our communities healthy and prevent the spread of disease,” said David Carlson, chief physician officer of MultiCare Health System, which is helping offer  drive-through flu vaccination clinics. The shots are free for children 18 and younger and for uninsured adults. Insured adults with an insurance card will be billed to their health plan.

Additional information on getting vaccinations is available from the Health Department at www.tpchd.org/flu.

The national Centers for Disease Control recommends vaccinating as soon as vaccine is available and before influenza begins circulating in the communities.

People at high risk for complications from flu include children under 5 years old, adults age 65 or older, pregnant women, and people with diabetes, asthma, heart disease, morbid obesity or other chronic health conditions.

Governor Jay Inslee received a flu shot in front of reporters and photographers on Oct. 15 to promote the health benefits of flu vaccinations, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. He noted there is added emphasis this year on flu prevention to keep people healthy and to avoid putting additional stress on the state’s healthcare system.

“Flu shots are critical to the health of our families and neighbors,” Inslee said. “Getting vaccinated for the flu is just one very important way to keep yourself and those around you safe and healthy.”

Other “common-sense measures we need to take every day right now to avoid getting sick” include social distancing, washing hands, sanitizing surfaces, and wearing a mask, Inslee added.

“We need to keep people out of the hospital and out of the way of COVID-19. We owe it to our fellow Washingtonians to get vaccinated,” the governor said.

Because the vaccine takes roughly two weeks to build up immunity in a person’s body, it’s important to get a shot right away, said Dr. Richard Webby, a member of the infectious diseases department at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the World Health Organization’s Influenza Vaccine Composition Advisory Team. “It’s the most effective tool we have to stave off the influenza virus. We can all help save lives by getting the flu shot now in order for it to provide maximum immunity.”

Doing so can help avoid “a volatile dual influenza and COVID-19 season this fall and winter,” Webby said. “The absolute best way for the public to prepare against this unique and unpredictable scenario is to protect themselves now” with a flu shot. He added, “The more people who get one will result in less severe influenza in our communities, resulting in less of an impact on our medical facilities and greater protection for our most vulnerable family, friends and neighbors. Let’s not wait for a spike in flu cases to take action.”

Governor Jay Inslee received a flu shot in front of reporters and photographers in October to promote the health benefits of flu vaccinations, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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