Doctors urge people to get flu shot

Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 6:58 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - As people continue getting the COVID-19, doctors are urging them to also get a flu shot.

Prevea Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ken Johnson and Mayo Clinic infectious disease expert Dr. Priya Sampathkumar said they expect the upcoming flu season to worse than most years.

In the 2020-21 flu season, lab-confirmed flu cases were at an all-time low according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Since most didn’t see the virus last year, Sampathkumar fears too many people won’t have some natural immunity against the virus.

“Each year a large number of people get influenza and then that protects them for a period of time against influenza,” she said. “Last year having been such a good season having nobody really get very sick with influenza means that this year more people are at risk.”

Sampathkumar said a major reason people fared so well last year was they were following COVID-19 safety protocols, which also help slow the spread of the flu.

“Masks work at preventing all these respiratory illnesses,” she said.

Sampathkumar said the two viruses also have similar symptoms. People who think they have the flu should get tested for COVID-19.

Despite sharing symptoms, she said the flu shot doesn’t protect people from COVID-19.

Audrey Boerner with the Eau Claire City-County Health Department said getting one shot shouldn’t prevent someone from getting the other one.

“The recommendation is to get your flu shot and your COVID shot at the same time if you don’t have your COVID shot yet,” she said. “That is absolutely safe to do.”

Johnson warns people it’s vital they protect themselves from both viruses since hospitals are already stretched thin with COVID-19 patients.

“The hospitals are full,” he said. “And to handle the surge of influenza patients that need to be admitted to the already full hospitals could create a crisis.”

Johnson said the best time to get the flu shot is between mid-September and mid-October.

Prevea Health announced it’s already offering flu shots.

The CDC said anyone older than six months should get a flu shot.

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