Preventing flu in the time of COVID
This year, getting your flu vaccination is especially important to protect older adults who are more susceptible to both the flu and COVID-19.
Is it flu or is it COVID-19?
These two contagious respiratory infections share many of the same symptoms - fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, headache, fatigue, and muscle pain. Key differences that distinguish COVID-19 are the loss of sense of smell or ability to taste. 1
The risk of developing another respiratory infection (such as the flu or pneumonia) in addition to COVID-19 is a serious concern – co-infections have been reported in up to 20% of COVID-19-positive patients who presented with a respiratory viral syndrome early in the pandemic.2
Do your part to fight the flu
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) notes that each year, an average of 12,200 people are hospitalized for the flu and 3,500 people die of it annually. Everyone over the age of 6 months should receive the flu vaccine every year between Oct and December, before the virus starts spreading. This is especially important for individuals who have a heart or lung condition, or are in contact with vulnerable or elderly individuals.
Vaccination will help protect you and others unable to receive it, such as babies under 6 months of age.3 This year, more Canadians plan to get the flu vaccine than in the past – rates are expected to increase from 40% to ~ 60%.4
Influenza vaccination works
This past flu season, flu vaccination prevented an estimated 60% of infections that would have affected unvaccinated people.3 In addition to the inactivated trivalent or quadrivalent influenza vaccines, and the live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) nasal spray options, two new vaccines are licensed for adults 65 years of age and older during the upcoming flu season.5
The flu increases pneumonia risk
Influenza is a common cause of pneumonia. Risk of developing pneumonia with potentially deadly complications is highest for young children, the elderly (especially nursing home residents), pregnant women, and people with chronic health conditions.6
In addition to being vaccinated for influenza, two vaccines help prevent invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD), a serious infection caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae – pneumococcal conjugate 13-valent (Pneu-C-13) vaccine, and pneumococcal polysaccharide 23-valent (Pneu-P-23) vaccine. Usually, only one vaccination is needed.7
COVID-19: The battle continues
We all need to persist with our efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Without any public health interventions, it is estimated that two-thirds of Canadians will catch the virus. People affected by cancer, kidney, heart or lung disease, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, or are immunocompromised are at greater risk of becoming severely ill if they develop COVID-19 or influenza.8 Learn more at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medical-conditions.html
With these highly contagious respiratory infections in mind this fall, continue with all the recommended measures – hand washing, social distancing, wearing a mask in public, sneezing/ coughing into your elbow, and avoiding large gatherings, especially indoors.4 Do your part to stay safe!
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This information should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your doctor. There may be variations in treatment that your physician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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- Similarities and differences between flu and COVID-19
- Researchers report 21% COVID-19 co-infection rate
- Flu vaccine prevented about 60 per cent of cases in Canada this season: study
- Flu shot more important than ever during COVID-19 pandemic, expert says
- Frequently Asked Influenza (Flu) Questions: 2020-2021 Season
- Five Facts You Should Know About Pneumonia
- Pneumococcal conjugate 13-valent vaccine (Prevnar®13) for adults with high risk medical conditions: Q&A for health care providers
- Testing, tracing and distancing key to prevent COVID-19 resurgence, new models show