Will the COVID-19 pandemic impact our flu season?
As we continue to follow our safety measures, like wearing a mask, social distancing, and washing our hands, will these steps also help keep flu cases low? And should you still get a flu vaccination?
We spoke with Jorge Salinas, MD, hospital epidemiologist to learn more about what we can expect from this year’s flu season.
What is the forecast for the flu season this year?
“It is unclear how the flu season will evolve in the United States. Countries in the southern hemisphere seem to have had a milder flu season, but the same countries had a well orchestrated response to COVID-19 which may have helped with the flu.”
Is our community likely to see the flu alongside COVID-19 this year?
“It is likely that we will have some degree of circulation of flu, COVID-19, and other respiratory viruses.”
How does the flu spread?
“It spreads easily from person to person when someone coughs or sneezes. You may also become infected by touching something with flu virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes. This is virtually the same way COVID-19 spreads. So if you follow the common sense recommendations against COVID-19: wearing face coverings, maintaining your distance, hand hygiene, and avoiding large indoor gatherings, you will be able to significantly decrease your risk of flu.”
Does wearing a mask or social distancing help to protect us against the flu as well as COVID-19?
“Yes, both viruses spread similarly and implementing measures to avoid COVID-19 will also prevent flu.”
Should we still get vaccinated against the flu?
“Yes, getting your flu vaccination is still extremely important. It’s offered for free for employees.”
Can you get sick from the flu vaccination?
“No. You may experience a mild and temporary fever after you receive the flu vaccination, but this does not mean you have the flu. The viruses in the flu shot are killed (inactivated).”
When should you see a provider if you have flu symptoms?
“If you have any of the symptoms of the flu or of COVID-19, employees should call ahead to the University Employee Health Clinic (UEHC) at 319-356-3631. Please do not arrive in person unless you’ve been told to do so for follow-up.
Patients can use our telehealth service if they have flu or COVID-19 symptoms.”
For answers to more questions about the flu, check out our flu FAQ.