Flu season always poses a risk to seniors, but this year that risk is compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, more than ever, senior care facilities and our communities will need to prepare for flu season and take steps to keep individuals safe.
The presence of both the flu and COVID-19 can put seniors a well as the general public at risk. While the flu and COVID-19 have similar symptoms, their treatments are different. We do have a vaccine each year for the flu and taking that vaccine decreases your chances of getting the flu. It is possible to catch the flu and COVID-19 at the same time and if this is the case, the odds of mortality greatly increase. There is concern about the convergence of flu season and COVID-19 and the potential strain placed on doctor offices and hospitals. Many states are seeing new COVID-19 case increases in recent weeks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as the weather gets colder, people will spend more time indoors, where viruses such as the flu and COVID-19 can spread more easily. It is very possible that it is going to be a difficult winter season. The medical sector also wants people to try and avoid getting the flu so that they are not unnecessarily placing individuals in isolation or quarantine while waiting for COVID-19 test results thus possibly being exposed to COVID-19.
It is important for our elderly to receive the flu vaccine, but it is also important for those who work with the elderly unless there is a medical reason not to do so. Those who are at highest risk for the flu are those seniors and people with underlying risk factors such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, among others. According to the CDC, those 50 years and older, living with one or more chronic conditions, are at high risk for the flu. Flu season typically peeks between December and February, so getting the vaccine now is better than waiting. You need at least two weeks for your body to develop antibodies to the virus. However, being vaccinated anytime during flu season is better than not at all.
Continue more than ever to practice infection control such as social distancing, frequent hand washing, and wearing masks until the CDC further instructs us not to do so. Be aware of who you are around and what their social habits are. Avoiding crowds and minimizing social situations will help to decrease chances of catching the viruses or being a carrier of them.
If you get sick, it is important to isolate immediately to contain the illness whether it be the flu or COVID-19. This is often easier said than done, but is necessary to help prevent the spread. Many signs and symptoms of flu can come on suddenly and closely resemble those of COVID-19. They include fever, cough, sore throat and muscle aches. If you have been in contact with someone who is sick, it is also important to isolate yourself whether you are displaying symptoms or not.
Flu levels are currently low, but researchers have belief that it is due to social distancing and masking this year. Many of the same COVID-19 precautions in place can help prevent flu transmission. Have a plan in place for your family in case either illness arises in your family circle.