This fall and winter, it’s likely that the usual viruses, including influenza, and the virus that causes COVID-19 will all be present and spreading.

The good news is there are several easy things we can do to avoid contracting any viral infection, including the flu and COVID-19:

  • Wear a mask
  • Wash hands frequently
  • Maintain a safe distance, avoid physical contact
  • Cough/sneeze into your sleeve
  • Avoid touching your mouth/nose/eyes
  • Stay home if you’re sick

The CDC recommends that all people 6 months and older get a yearly flu vaccine. September and October are good times to get vaccinated. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating, vaccination should continue, even in January or later. Typically, in our area, flu season peaks in February.

Flu and COVID-19 can both result in serious illness, including hospitalization or death.

“The concern is not only that COVID-19 significantly increases the burden to health care facilities during an already busy season, but that the potential for more testing in patients with non-specific respiratory virus symptoms could further strain testing capacity,” said Fred Kerns, MD, infectious disease specialist.

“Your family is likely the greatest potential source that you will get flu from,” Kerns added. “The spread within your family is often 10-20%. Having your family get a flu shot and educating them on ways to avoid infection are important ways to protect them and yourself.”

Getting a flu vaccine will not protect against COVID-19; however, the flu vaccination has many other important benefits including: keeping you from getting sick with flu, reducing the severity of your illness if you do get flu, and reducing your risk of a flu-associated hospitalization.

“Flu vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization and death,” said Terrie Lee, infection prevention, employee health. “Getting a flu vaccine this fall will be more important than ever, not only to reduce your risk from flu, but also to help conserve potentially scarce health care resources.”