How Will Flu Be Impacted by COVID-19?

Dr. Jonathan Truong, Infectious Disease Specialist at Palmdale Regional Medical Center, answers your questions about the upcoming flu season and how it will be impacted by COVID-19.

Q: Is this flu season any different?

Yes, due to COVID. We need to make sure we prevent flu so we can preserve hospital capacity to care for COVID patients, since there’s no vaccine for COVID.

Q: Do we need to get a flu vaccine earlier this year?

Yes. Now’s a perfect time. We’ve already had a few positive flu cases in southern California. Remember, it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to kick in and be effective.

Q: Who should get the flu vaccine?

Everyone 6 months of age and older should get the flu vaccine. The only people who should not get a flu shot are those who had a severe allergic reaction to a previous flu shot (which is exceedingly rare).

Q: Am I a high-risk person?

Everyone can have severe complications from flu, regardless of risk factors. Those who are at most risk are kids under 2 years of age, adults over 65, people with chronic conditions (diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease), and people who are obese or pregnant.

Q: What flu vaccines are recommended this season?

All vaccines are equally recommended, depending on age. FluMist® (intranasal vaccine) can only be given to people 2 – 49 years of age. There is no CDC preference to use High Dose Fluzone over any other vaccine.

Q: How effective is the flu vaccine?

Last year it was 39 percent effective. Keep in mind, this is how good it is at preventing testing positive for flu. The vaccine we gave last year in the U.S. kept about 60,000 people out of the hospital.

Q: What is the difference between flu and COVID-19?

They are very similar in many respects. Both can be spread even though you’re asymptomatic. Both are respiratory viruses with similar symptoms. They are almost impossible to distinguish on symptoms alone. Both cause complications and kill people. Flu seems to be much worse for children, though, which is one difference.

Q: Can I have the flu and COVID-19 at the same time?

Yes, there are many case reports of this happening. The significance is a bit unclear, whether one makes the other worse or vice versa.

Q: If I start experiencing symptoms, is there a test to detect flu and COVID-19?

Yes. Both can and should be tested for, especially once we know flu is circulating.

Q: Will a flu vaccine protect me against COVID-19?

Not really, but flu can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to COVID and other illnesses.

Q: Is the treatment for flu and COVID-19 similar?

Supportive care is similar, but each has different antivirals. The best treatment, though, is prevention with a flu shot!

Q: What can I do to keep my loved ones safe?

Make sure they get a flu shot, and everyone around them as well. And, due to COVID, wear a mask! Don’t let your guard down.

Q: This has been a stressful year and I am very anxious about the flu season. How can I reduce my stress?

The protection from a flu shot should give you some peace of mind.