Q&A: What you need to know about flu season during a pandemic

November 19, 2020 /

As the weather becomes colder, “flu season” comes closer. This year, it may be difficult to distinguish the common flu from Coronavirus. With worries already high for the influx of holidays, it is important to keep families of Kern County informed and healthy.

Kern Sol News interviewed Michelle Corson, program manager and public relations officer for Kern County Public Health Services Department, to discuss the similarities and differences between the two viruses and additional recommendations.

Corson is encouraging people to get their flu shot this season. Here’s what else she had to say.

Q: What would you tell someone who is hesitant on getting a flu shot?

A: According to the CDC, a flu vaccine provides several individual health benefits, including keeping you from getting sick with flu, reducing the severity of your illness if you do get flu, and reducing your risk of flu-associated hospitalization.

Q: According to the CDC, “flu activity peaks between December and February.” Can we expect similar increases to Covid-19, as well? Why or why not?

A: COVID-19 is a novel virus, and the way in which it spreads is very unpredictable. However, we have modeling that anticipates it’s peak to be in February 2021 in Kern County.

Q: What is the correlation between this time of year and such illnesses?

A: When the weather cools off, we tend to gather indoors, especially during the holiday season. According to the CDC, both COVID-19 and flu can spread from person-to-person, between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet). Both are spread mainly by droplets made when people with the illness (COVID-19 or flu) cough, sneeze, or talk.
Both the flu virus and the virus that causes COVID-19 may be spread to others by people before they begin showing symptoms, with very mild symptoms or who never developed symptoms (asymptomatic).

Q: Can you explain the differences between Influenza (Flu) and COVID-19?

According to the CDC, COVID-19 seems to spread more easily than flu and causes more serious illnesses in some people. It can also take longer before people show symptoms and people can be contagious for longer. Another important difference is there is a vaccine to protect against flu. There is currently no vaccine available to the public to prevent COVID-19.

Q: What symptoms are similar to both and which are unique?

A: According to the CDC, both COVID-19 and flu can have varying degrees of signs and symptoms, ranging from no symptoms (asymptomatic) to severe symptoms. Common symptoms that COVID-19 and flu share include:
· Fever or feeling feverish/chills
· Cough
· Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
· Fatigue (tiredness)
· Sore throat
· Runny or stuffy nose
· Muscle pain or body aches
· Headache
· Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults
Differences: The CDC states that flu viruses can cause mild to severe illness, including common signs and symptoms listed above. COVID-19 seems to cause more serious illnesses in some people. Other signs and symptoms of COVID-19, different from flu, may include change in or loss of taste or smell.

Q: Do you recommend people to be tested for Covid-19, even if they feel they only have the flu?

A: Because most people won’t be able to distinguish between COVID-19 and flu symptoms, as they are so similar, the only way to be certain is to be tested.

Q: We have vaccines for the flu. When can we expect one for Coronavirus? What can Kern County expect when this occurs?

A: While we do not have details on exactly when the COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be distributed throughout the country, Public Health will be involved in organizing, allocating, and administering the COVID-19 vaccine. Just as we currently do for the flu vaccine, we will work with our community partners to make the vaccine available throughout the community.

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