What are the differences in flu season during the Covid pandemic?
Flu Season During the COVID-19 Pandemic
By mid-December, the northern hemisphere is typically in the midst of its annual flu and cold season. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the incidence of common seasonal flu has remained remarkably low in several countries.
The pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 has infected at least 67 million people worldwide and resulted in 1.5 million deaths. In response to this global health crisis, various measures such as temporary lockdowns, mask-wearing, personal hygiene practices, and social distancing have been implemented to combat the spread of COVID-19. Interestingly, these preventive measures have also helped protect individuals from other respiratory illnesses.
COVID-19 has prompted us to prioritize our health and adopt a healthier lifestyle. While COVID-19 and the flu share similarities in terms of being highly contagious respiratory illnesses, our lives have changed in unimaginable ways. With health as a top priority, it is important to understand how the flu season has been impacted by the ongoing pandemic.
Preventive Measures for COVID-19 and Flu
The precautions recommended for protecting oneself from COVID-19 have not changed significantly, and it is advisable to continue following the same preventive measures as in previous years. Experts suggest the following precautions to safeguard against both the flu and COVID-19:
1. Get vaccinated for both infections.
2. Wear masks when venturing outside.
3. Regularly wash and sanitize your hands.
4. Limit travel plans.
5. Maintain a healthy lifestyle by getting enough sleep, exercise, and a balanced diet.
The flu virus spreads in a similar manner to COVID-19, primarily through tiny droplets released when infected individuals talk or sneeze. Since the pandemic began, social distancing and other preventive tactics have become integral parts of our daily lives. Importantly, these same precautions have also helped minimize flu infections.
The Importance of Flu Vaccines
The flu vaccine is a crucial tool in our fight against the flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends annual flu vaccinations for individuals aged 6 months and older before the onset of winter. Despite the lessons learned from COVID-19 preventive measures, it is essential not to neglect getting a flu vaccine this year. Whether you work from home or frequently go outside, it is necessary to receive both the flu and COVID-19 vaccinations. Scientists have updated flu vaccines to protect against different flu viruses, and it is advisable to get vaccinated before winter begins.
Is it Safe to Get the Flu Vaccine During the COVID-19 Pandemic?
Currently, there are no studies indicating a connection between flu shots and an increased risk of contracting COVID-19. Experts affirm that the flu vaccine does not temporarily raise the chances of contracting the virus. A flu shot only contains pieces of the influenza virus, not the entire virus, which helps the immune system recognize and block the virus from entering the body. Mild symptoms such as redness, swelling, or soreness at the injection site, as well as low fever and headache, may occur after receiving the flu shot. Similar side effects can also be experienced after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
Understanding the Relationship Between Influenza and COVID-19
Both the flu and COVID-19 spread in similar ways. They can be transmitted between individuals who come into close contact (within 6 feet or 2 meters) with an infected person. The viruses spread through respiratory droplets released during talking, coughing, or sneezing. These droplets can land in someone’s nose or mouth or be inhaled. Additionally, both viruses can also spread through physical contact or by touching surfaces contaminated by an infected person.
Symptoms of COVID-19 and Flu
Flu and COVID-19 share several common symptoms, including fever, cough, fatigue, sore throat, headache, muscle aches, shortness of breath, and a runny nose. Children may also experience symptoms such as nausea and vomiting more frequently. Due to the overlapping symptoms, it can be challenging to determine whether one is experiencing the flu or COVID-19. Testing is recommended to accurately diagnose the specific illness, as it is possible to be diagnosed with both diseases simultaneously.
While many individuals with mild symptoms of COVID-19 or the flu can recover at home with proper precautions, rest, and immune-boosting measures, those who are severely ill require medical attention. Certain groups, such as children, older adults, and pregnant women, are at higher risk of severe complications from both influenza and COVID-19. The risk profile has changed during different phases of the pandemic, with older adults and individuals with chronic illnesses being more vulnerable during the spread of the Alpha variant, and unvaccinated individuals aged 20 to 59 being at higher risk during the spread of the Delta variant.