Flu season is upon us again and many people have questions about how to stay safe, especially as we continue to face COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. In the U.S., flu season occurs during the fall and winter and typically peaks between December and February. Having proper knowledge on the flu and its symptoms is a key way to stay healthy during flu season. Dr. Cameual Wright, medical director at CareSource, a nonprofit health plan, has important information to share regarding the upcoming flu season.
Know the Symptoms of Influenza
Now more than ever, it is important to know the symptoms of the flu. Some symptoms of the flu are very similar to COVID-19, including fever, cough, shortness of breath, runny nose and fatigue. It is essential to identify your symptoms to move forward with proper treatment. One unique symptom that may occur if you have COVID-19 is the loss of taste or smell. When in doubt, you should get tested. Higher numbers of flu tests are expected this year to help determine if a patient has the flu or COVID-19.
The Flu Shot is More Important than Ever
The flu shot is important every year, but COVID-19 has prompted even more urgency in receiving the vaccine, which offers benefits including reducing the risk of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and even the risk of flu-related death. Getting the flu vaccine this year will decrease your likelihood of getting the flu and will help rule out what illness you may have if you do get sick. CareSource encourages its members to get a flu vaccine and sends out yearly reminders to its members to get the flu vaccine, helps members find locations to receive a vaccine and covers the cost.
Proper Hygiene and Protection Prevents Transmission
After months of increasing personal protection and hygiene to protect against COVID-19, we should plan to continue these through flu season to stay healthy. Best practices to avoid transmission of the influenza virus include effective handwashing, not touching the face, avoiding sick contacts and wearing facial coverings. Flu season is a good time to emphasize these practices with children.
The Flu Should Be Taken Seriously
It is a common misconception that the flu is not that serious, but it can have serious health effects. The virus should not be taken lightly, even if COVID-19 appears to be the larger threat. Some may be able to let the flu run its course with low to moderate symptoms, but others may be affected more seriously. Like COVID-19, those who are immunocompromised will see more serious effects that could result in death. If you are immunocompromised or have a weakened immune system, you should be diligent about taking safety precautions.
Know What to Do if You Think You Have the Flu
If you think you have the flu, you should seek care as soon as possible. The flu can be treated with antivirals but are most effective if taken within 48 hours of getting sick. While getting treatment early is ideal, antivirals can still be effective after the 48-hour window. If you’re not sure if you have the flu or another illness including COVID-19, you can call CareSource24, our 24-hour Nurse Helpline with registered nurses to help answer questions, make distinctions and provide guidance.
CareSource is helping their members stay healthy this flu season by covering the cost of the flu shot, educating their members on best practices, and offering guidance on questions they may have. For more information visit www.caresource.com.
Dr. Cameual Wright is medical director of CareSource Indiana Market.