PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) – Last flu season, Oregon saw an unprecedented record low number of flu cases, thanks in most part to all of the precautions in place for COVID-19 and more people getting the flu vaccine.
This year, we’re still wearing masks and sometimes social distancing, but businesses are back to full capacity, a lot of us are back to work in-person, and kids are back in school.
According to the Oregon Health Authority, school-age children are the biggest driver of flu transmission.
“Gatherings, people going to homes where people are getting together, all those things really play a significant role including being inside and not wearing a mask, so again our ask is for people to wear a mask especially when they’re inside because that will limit the transmission of COVID as well as influenza,” OHA Senior Health Advisor & Epidemiologist Dr. Emilio DeBess said.
Dr. DeBess said it’s also possible that we have reduced natural immunity to flu from not having much exposure last year, though we don’t know for sure, but it’s another reason the flu shot is so important this year.
The main concern in all of this is that people can get so sick from the flu that they have to be hospitalized, and right now hospitals are still strained with COVID cases, patients who delayed care, and short staffing and healthcare worker burnout.
“Potentially we could see an increase in the number of hospitalizations related to the flu. At that point we’re going to truly overwhelm our hospital system,” Dr. DeBess said. “We must think about our community in general, we need to think about protecting ourselves and our families against the flu and COVID-19.”
Another tricky aspect is that flu and COVID can feel very similar as far as symptoms, so Dr. DeBess said as soon as you feel sick, get tested for both because if it is COVID you need to follow quarantine precautions; don’t wait until you lose your taste or smell or have trouble breathing to realize that it is actually COVID and not the flu because you could be infecting other people.
According to OHA, it is perfectly fine and safe to get a COVID shot or booster and flu shot at the exact time.
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