MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Alabama health officials have a message they need you to hear as doctors and nurses around the country prepare for a fight against the flu and coronavirus at the same time.
“I think the message here is let’s do all we can to prevent what we can and that is to get our influenza vaccine that will help us reduce the spread of influenza,” said Alabama Department of Public Health Assistant State Health Officer Dr. Karen Landers, who believes the flu shot, this year, may be more important than ever.
Public health officials across the country are warning the flu plus coronavirus could equal what they’re calling a “twindemic,” with both deadly viruses circulating at the same time.
“Certainly we know that many of the symptoms of COVID-19 will overlap with influenza. So this year, as much as any year that we have dealt with influenza, this is a very, very important aspect and that is to get your flu shot when it is available through your provider, whether it’s your physician, a local pharmacy, the local health department or other provider,” Dr. Landers explained. “Again, this is a critical season to make sure that people are highly immunized for influenza.”
According to Dr. Landers, it’s unlikely, but possible for a person to come down with the flu and coronavirus at the same time.
"Yes, it is possible to have both viral illnesses again, one does not preclude the other. But I do think that persons obtaining influenza vaccine will reduce their risk of contracting influenza, now stressing that the influenza vaccine does not prevent COVID. But it will reduce the risk of contracting influenza. "
Experts say it is possible we’ll see less flu this year because of COVID-19 related social distancing. But Dr. Landers said that depends on all of us taking action to protect ourselves and each other.
“Just being aware that the more conscious we are of keeping our hands clean, the more we are social distancing, and the more we are wearing our mask and following the statewide mandate for mask, this will reduce respiratory droplets. So perhaps that will have an additional effect for influenza.”
As the flu season gets closer, Dr. Landers advises taking the vaccine as soon as it’s available.
“My recommendation is when your provider has flu vaccine available, go ahead and take it,” Landers said. “Really, everyone six months of age or older, should be able to take the flu vaccine with very few exceptions.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children get their flu vaccine before the end of October.
Flu vaccine manufacturers have ramped up production to make tens of millions of more doses than last season.
Every year, the flu sickens between 9-45 million Americans, causes at least 140,000 hospitalizations and leads to 12,000-61,000 deaths.