Want to prevent a twindemic? Do this.
If you've been hearing a lot about the importance of getting a flu shot this year, there's good reason: Alongside wearing a mask, social distancing and practicing hand hygiene, flu shots are one of the strongest defenses against a twindemic.
Wait…what's a twindemic?
Twindemic describes a pandemic and an epidemic happening at the same time (e.g., COVID-19 meets flu season). This is a problem, because if the respiratory illnesses surge simultaneously there could be a shortage of medical supplies or access to care. As Gundersen infection preventionist Megan Meller explains, "We tend to see an increase in hospitalizations during influenza season, and, combined with COVID-19, that may stretch resources."
How different are flu and COVID-19 symptoms?
Flu and COVID-19 symptoms overlap. A lot. So much so that it's difficult for providers to know whether you have the flu or COVID-19 unless you're tested for them. The illnesses both can cause:
- Shortness of breath
- Body aches
- Vomiting and diarrhea (more common among children with the flu but can occur in people of all ages)
While many of the symptoms are the same, a new loss of taste and smell is distinct to COVID-19.
How important is it to get a flu shot?
It's crucial to get a flu shot this year. The vaccine doesn't just help keep you healthy by reducing how long you're sick and the severity of your illness, it also lessens your risk for hospitalization and serious health events like heart attacks and strokes.
Where do you get a flu shot?
At Gundersen, our flu shot clinics in La Crosse and Onalaska run Oct. 12 through Nov. 25. Flu shots also are available now at primary care appointments across the healthcare system.
What else can you do to stay safe from COVID-19 and the flu?
Many of the steps you've been taking throughout the spring and summer will be helpful into flu season. "As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, masking and social distancing are two proven ways to reduce illness related to COVID-19," Meller says. "Together, we can flatten the COVID-19 curve."