The Wellness Corner … by Judith Wallace, RN, FCN
As if we haven't heard enough about protecting ourselves from infection...now it's time to think about seasonal flu. Covid19 is far from over and right now in PA it doesn't seem to be backing off. Medical researchers are expressing concern that this fall and winter we may see the two infections come together in what could be a perfect storm of accelerated Covid19 and seasonal influenza. The problem is that during the fall and winter months people tend to congregate inside buildings. Last year was a "light year" for flu, presumably because people were predominantly confined at home and using all sorts of precautions during "Covid19 shut down". This year people are tired of taking precautions, masking, social distancing and hand sanitizing, making us more susceptible to both Covid19 and the flu.
The "perfect storm" could lead to the nation's hospitals being extremely stretched if both flu and Covid19 peak at the same time. There's so much uncertainty right now about the future of Covid19. Will there be a peak? What about a vaccine? Will there be one soon? Will it be effective? No one knows for sure. But infectious disease experts agree that if we continue to be vigilant in maintaining Covid19 precautions, those same precautions will also tamp down the risk of the flu.
Another concern, beyond excessive burdening of the hospital system with a "twin-demic" of Covid19 and flu is that both infections require large numbers of medical supplies, still in short supply since last winter. Additionally, every patient who presents to an emergency room with fever, cough, sore throat, etc. will need to be tested for both flu and Covid19 so that doctors can treat the proper infection. This further stretches the supply chain.
So, what's the implication for us? There are some very specific things we can do to help divert the "perfect storm" medical professionals fear may be coming.
*First, DO NO RELAX PRECAUTIONS. Continue to wash your hands, stay home if you are feeling unwell, WEAR A MASK whenever you leave home and are around other people, and MAINTAIN PHYSICAL DISTANCING in social or business settings.
*Second, getting a flu shot is more important than ever this year. The flu vaccine does work: it prevents hospitalizations, mortality and even when the vaccine doesn't completely prevent the flu it can reduce the severity. Health professionals suggest that if there was ever a year to get a flu shot, this is that year. We need every protection we can get. Flu vaccines are currently available for people of all ages. Now is the time to protect yourself and your loved ones. Talk to your health care provider or your pharmacist. Don't put it off this year. Get that flu shot now!
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