SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The COVID-19 pandemic has been on people’s minds everywhere over the last couple of months, and as fall approaches many will have another respiratory virus to avoid.
September is less than a month away, and that has Sanford Health Dr. Jennifer Hsu recommending people add getting their flu vaccination to their to-do list.
“September, October, November, is the ideal time as we typically start seeing influenza numbers tick up in November and December. And we ideally want people to have had their influenza vaccines at least two weeks ahead of the circulation of influenza,” Hsu said.
In addition to getting your flu vaccine, she says the precautions for COVID-19 could contribute to lower influenza numbers this season.
“In some countries, Australia, New Zealand, some parts of South America, they’ve seen a marked decrease in circulation of influenza. And they think that that can be attributed to some of the infection prevention measures such as masking and social distancing that are being undertaken because of COVID,” Hsu said.
Even if influenza rates are lower than usual, she says health care providers will be faced with a challenge this season with COVID-19 and influenza presenting with similar symptoms.
“We will be reliant on testing, but it’s really important to emphasize that our infection prevention strategies are very similar since both viruses are transmitted through respiratory secretions,” Hsu said.
And with the increase in respiratory illnesses in the winter months, she says one way to keep those around us safe is by masking up.
“There’s been a lot of controversy around masks. And we could go into the details of what kinds of masks and how protective they are. I would just emphasize that whatever mask you use, that is the best thing we have right now to protect our fellow community members. So, as we’ve talked about at length, you know, masks, our focus on masking is to protect those around us,” Hsu said.
The CDC says it is possible to have the flu and COVID-19 at the same time, but says more research is being done to determine how common it is.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of either respiratory virus, call your doctor.