The flu and COVID-19 have a lot of similarities but there is an important difference between the two: Flu shots are available.
“Now more than ever, influenza vaccination is critical,” said Dr. Kathleen Toomey, who heads the Georgia Department of Public Health. “Not only to protect people from getting sick, but to reduce the burden on our healthcare system already caring for COVID-19 patients.”
Floyd Medial Center and Redmond Regional Medical Center reported having a total of 36 COVID-19 patients as of Tuesday.
Another 37 residents were confirmed to have the coronavirus Tuesday, bringing the cumulative total to 3,475. While the county is not listed as a high transmission area in the latest DPH indicator report, neighboring Chattooga and Bartow counties are.
Flu shots are widely available at public health departments, doctors’ offices, grocery stores, neighborhood clinics and pharmacies. The DPH is urging everyone over the age of 6 months to get one.
“Even if the vaccine doesn’t prevent illness from flu completely, it can help reduce the severity and risk of serious complications – and keep people out of the hospital during this COVID-19 pandemic,” Toomey said in a Tuesday release.
Getting a shot also helps protect more vulnerable people in the community by slowing the spread, she said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting an annual flu shot by the end of October. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for protective antibodies to develop.
Influenza and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses.
Testing may be required to tell the difference, because they do share many symptoms. Among the possibilities are fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle pain or body aches and headaches. Vomiting and diarrhea are more common in children than adults.
COVID-19 and the flu also spread in similar ways, according to the DPH. Droplets or smaller virus particles from a sick person can infect other people nearby. The smallest particles also may linger in the air, where people can inhale them.
There are tried and true measures to help protect against the flu or any respiratory illness, including COVID-19:
♦ If you have symptoms, stay home from school or work.
♦ Practice social distancing by keeping 6 feet between you and others.
♦ Wear a mask or face covering in public.
♦ Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Alcohol based hand sanitizers (at least 60% alcohol) are the next best thing if there is no access to soap and water.
♦ Cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing to help prevent the spread of viruses. Use a tissue or cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow or arm.
♦ Avoid touching your face as germs can get into the body through mucus membranes of the nose, mouth and eyes.
The DPH suggests that people who think they have the flu contact their healthcare provider as soon as possible. There are medications to treat it but they are most effective when taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.