A cough, a sniffle or even a sneeze is enough to stop you in your tracks these days. “Could I have the coronavirus?” you wonder.
As flu season approaches, public health experts are telling Americans to get their flu shot, even if it means leaving quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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“I understand the desire for social distance, but I think it’s also important to get a flu shot this year,” CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta told CNN. “It’s important to get one every year, but perhaps even more important this year because we’re probably going to have a convergence of both flu and coronavirus this fall. So, anything we can do to reduce flu I think is going to be really important.”
Remember when it was all about flattening the curve? The public health tactic sought to reduce the number of people infected at the same time in order to lessen the burden on hospitals and other medical infrastructure. While most states have managed to do so, spikes in some states along with new cases of the flu could overwhelm the healthcare system.
“This is a critical year for us to try to take the flu as much off the table as we can,” Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Journal of the American Medical Association, adding that he’s hoping for a 65 percent vaccination rate.
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Last year, fewer than half of all Americans got the flu vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And with fewer Americans willing to take a COVID-19 vaccination when it first becomes available, there is reason to be concerned about vaccination rates again this year.
The influenza poses more than just a risk for the country’s healthcare system; it’s also a potentially deadly virus itself. Last flu season, the CDC estimated between 24,000 and 62,00 deaths and between 410,000 and 740,000 hospitalizations due to the flu. In early spring, there were several reports of patients being infected with both the coronavirus and the flu virus at a rate higher than previously reported, according to one study by researchers at Stanford University.
Some states are taking matters into their own hands, with Massachusetts requiring students to get a flu vaccine before the school year begins and others considering doing the same. And while the effectiveness of the flu vaccine may wane over time, experts recommend getting your flu shot when you can, as soon as you can.
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