Flu Season and COVID-19

Dr. Paula Eckardt masked

As we prepare for flu season to coincide with the COVID-19 pandemic this year, Paula Eckardt, MD, medical director of Infectious Disease at Memorial Healthcare System, shares her thoughts on how to prepare and what to expect.

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Datasource: Stop the Spread of the Flu      

When does the flu season officially start?

People can become infected with seasonal influenza (flu) all year, however, the peak months in the U.S. normally happen during the fall and winter months (October-March).

When should you get your flu shot?

We prepare early, usually during September, so we encourage everyone to get their flu shot by the end of October. Remember that it takes up to two weeks to build immunity after you receive the flu vaccine.

Is the flu preventable?

Generally speaking, the flu is preventable if you are vaccinated.

Can everyone get a flu shot?

Most adults and children over 6 months old, should get a flu shot; however, in rare cases someone may have an allergic reaction or complications after getting a flu shot.

You should not experience severe flu-like symptoms (fever and chills) after getting the flu shot. Mild symptoms may be a result of your immune system responding to the vaccine and creating antibodies.

It is not possible to get the flu from the flu shot because the flu shot contains inactive viruses meaning they aren’t “live.”

What can people do to prevent catching the flu?

The most important thing you can do is get a flu shot. In addition, you should:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water
  • Continue to practice physical distancing
  • Exercise throughout the week
  • Get good sleep
  • Stay in control of existing diseases/conditions

Do you know if there could be a co-infection of the flu and COVID-19?

We have seen co-infections with other viruses, so there is a possibility of being infected with the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the flu at the same time.

What is a "twindemic?"

A “twindemic” is not an official medical term or description, but, it basically means experiencing a surge in flu and COVID-19 cases simultaneously.

What is the most important thing people need to know about the "twindemic" as we move into the fall?

We are expecting to see a surge of COVID-19 cases in the fall due to its increased infection rate and the history of the disease, as well as the flu.

We urge our community to do their part to protect themselves and their loved ones by getting a flu shot, so we don’t experience a surge in both of these viruses, which can overwhelm hospital systems throughout South Florida.

What should I do if I think I have the flu or coronavirus?

The hospital is preparing to test patients for influenza and COVID-19 at the same time to differentiate which disease you have.

No symptoms: If you have no symptoms, you should stay home and contact your primary care physician to schedule a telehealth appointment.

Symptoms: If you are experiencing the following serious symptoms, please go to the nearest emergency department or call 911.

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Bluish lips or face

You will be subject to a screening exam and it will be determined if a test is medically necessary.

About the Author

Eckardt Paula A Paula A. Eckardt, MD, is chief of the Division of Infectious Disease at Memorial Healthcare System. She is board certified in internal medicine and infectious diseases, a Ryan White Part A provider, and offers ambulatory medical services, substance abuse services, disease medical case management, and case management.