The year 2020 will certainly be remembered as one of the most challenging years in memory, thanks in part to a microscopic virus known as COVID-19 and the world’s response to it. However, it is not the only strain of virus that you should be concerned about this year. Experts say that our efforts during this influenza season will be more important than ever.
The challenge we have in 2020 is that the existing COVID-19 pandemic overlaps the traditional flu season, which typically stretches from October to March. Both viruses cause similar respiratory symptoms and when presented with typical symptoms, it will be difficult for people to know which illness they have.
Given the existing strain on hospitals, emergency rooms and the entire healthcare industry, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging everyone to get the flu vaccine as soon as possible. The CDC estimates 38 million people contracted the flu last year, which resulted in 400,000 hospitalizations.
Currently, the COVID Tracking Project estimates that more than 40,000 people are currently hospitalized due to the coronavirus. A surge of influenza-related hospitalizations would further complicate an already burdened hospital industry.
Better Flu Vaccines
The news is not all bad this flu season; there’s good news regarding improvements in influenza vaccines. People can choose between trivalent and quadrivalent types of vaccines. The trivalent vaccine has three antigens, which trigger immune responses to three types of influenza viruses. The quadrivalent has four antigens.
Since people age 65 and older are at greater risk for complications of the flu, there is a vaccine–Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent–approved by the Food and Drug Administration for this age group. There are also vaccines free of preservatives and those manufactured without egg protein.
Virtually everyone six months and older should be vaccinated. Combining the flu vaccine with proper public health hygiene, like wearing masks and social distancing, will help everyone stay safe during these winter months.