Monday, September 13, 2021
With the surge of COVID-19 due to the highly transmissible Delta variant, health officials believe it will be increasingly important to get an annual flu shot to help reduce the risk of two respiratory outbreaks circulating simultaneously.
COVID-19 and flu are both highly contagious respiratory illnesses that may produce severe infections resulting in hospitalization or death.
Though they are different viruses, they have similar symptoms that include fever of more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, chills, body aches, fatigue, nausea and diarrhea. And both present greater risk to the elderly and those with underlying health conditions such as heart and lung disease.
“It’s one thing for your body to fight flu or COVID-19 separately, but it’s exceedingly difficult and challenging to fight these viruses at the same time,” stated Kara Janson, Atlantic County Acting Division Director of Public Health.
According to Janson, the only way to determine which virus you have is through testing.
She did note, however, some variations in the onset of symptoms. Flu symptoms tend to appear more suddenly than COVID-19, usually within one to four days of infection while COVID-19 symptoms typically do not appear until five days after infection or later, and sometimes not at all.
“The cough associated with COVID-19 tends to be a dryer but more severe cough with shortness of breath,” she added.
COVID-19 symptoms may also include a new and sudden loss of taste or smell, a runny or stuffy nose, a sore throat, and repeated shaking with chills.
Anyone who has flu or COVID-19 symptoms should contact their healthcare provider or seek medical assistance.
To help protect residents from the flu and COVID-19, the Atlantic County Division of Public Health is providing free flu and COVID-19 vaccinations for residents 18 years and older at multiple public clinics beginning Monday, September 27. Appointments are not needed, but face masks will be required for entrance. Visit www.aclink.org/flu for the complete schedule.
COVID-19 vaccinations will include the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine or the two-dose Moderna vaccine. Participants may receive both the flu and COVID-19 vaccination at the same time in different arms.
People who can avoid the flu will help reduce the burden on the U.S. healthcare system that is already taxed by the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases related to the Delta variant, according to the CDC. Those who get flu shots will help minimize the co-mingling of flu and COVID-19 patients and the spread of infection from one to the other.
Janson cautioned that it may take up to two weeks for the flu antibodies to develop in your body, so the sooner you get a flu shot the better.
The flu vaccine cannot prevent all cases of the flu, but it helps reduce the likelihood of contracting the virus and may lessen its severity and duration. Residents can help prevent the spread of both flu and COVID-19 by continuing to practice recommended hygiene protocols including wearing face masks, washing hands frequently, covering coughs and sneezes, staying home if sick, cleaning common touch items and areas, maintaining physical distance as appropriate, and limiting contact with those infected.