Flu shots are more important than ever in the pandemic

Published 11:48 am Friday, November 20, 2020

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There have always been good reasons to get a flu shot for most people.
But the reasons have multiplied in the middle of the pandemic.
The last thing you want is to come down with both the seasonal flu and the coronavirus. The flu season runs from October to March.
This past Thursday, the Tennessee Department of Health hosted drive-through flu shot clinics at every health department across the state in an effort to get as many people as possible vaccinated for the flu.
Just as COVID-19 is a very real threat to people in every town and community in America, so is the flu. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that last year the flu hospitalized 400,000 Americans and killed 22,000. And that is with a vaccine available.
Thus the extra emphasis this year on people getting a flu shot so that a “twindemic” with COVID-19 can be averted.
“There’s considerable concern as we enter the fall and winter months and into the flu season that we’ll have that dreaded overlap” of flu and the coronavirus, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the U.S. National Institutes of Health said.
Also, the medical system is already stressed in the pandemic. It doesn’t need more burdens from the flu season.
The Associated Press reported that last year just under half of adults got vaccinated. That’s right. Less than half of adults annually take the flu shot.
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. It can cause mild to severe illness and can be deadly — especially to vulnerable people, including the very young, the elderly and those with certain chronic health conditions. Symptoms can include a sudden onset of fever, dry cough, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, sore throat, and nasal congestion or stuffiness.
Health officials have long touted the importance of getting vaccinated.
This fall, the CDC began urging people in early October to get a flu shot. Typically flu starts widely circulating in November or December, and peaks by February. From the date of vaccination, it takes approximately two weeks for the antibodies that provide protection to develop in the body.
Thankfully, there is a vaccine for the flu. It won’t work for everyone but it is likely to reduce the symptoms if you do contract the virus.
Also, the CDC recommends that if you are sick with flu-like illness, that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. Also, you are advised to cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way.
Fortunately, many of the same practices we have had to get used to in the past few months to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 will also help prevent the spread of the flu — that is if we simply follow the guidelines.
Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations.
Everyone six months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every year before flu activity begins in their community. Health experts also recommend getting vaccinated early this year.
Vaccination of high-risk persons is especially important to decrease their risk of severe flu illness. People at high risk of serious flu complications include young children; pregnant women; people with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease; and people 65 years and older.
The flu vaccine is available from many local providers — including doctors’ offices, clinics, and pharmacies. Also, the Carter County public health departments offer flu shots.
As we have said repeatedly, we encourage everyone in our community to vigorously follow these guidelines — avoid crowds, socially distance, practice good hygiene, wear protective masks — and now we add to that list: Get your flu vaccine.

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