TULSA, Okla. — Tuesday, Sept. 1 marks the first day of flu season.
Health experts worry about handling the flu and the coronavirus pandemic at the same time.
Jennifer Chaplin tested positive for COVID-19 in March. She had a headache, fever, loss of state and respiratory issues, leading to her needing an inhaler.
She’s now recovered from the virus and is worried about the flu.
“With the flu, I’ve never actually had it," Chaplin said. "So, it makes me wonder, is COVID one of those things that would make me more susceptible to getting the flu?”
Dr. Steven Crawford with OU Medicine said people who recovered from COVID-19 are more likely to experience serious side effects from the flu, like lung or bacteria infections.
He recommends most people ages six months and older get the flu vaccine before winter.
“It does, definitely, diminish the risk of dying from the flu, of getting severe flu, and being hospitalized with the flu," Dr. Crawford said.
While some flu and COVID-19 symptoms are similar, Dr. Crawford said there are some key differences.
“You know, you’re well one minute and bam, the flu hits you," he said. "Whereas COVID is more of a slow, gradual onset.”
Meanwhile, Chaplin said she worries more for her grandchildren. They’re Tulsa Public Schools students currently distance learning, but the district could possibly return back to in-person learning in late October.
“That’s when flu and everything is going to be more prevalent," Chaplin said. "It’s going to start getting cold, people are going to be getting sick.”
According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health website, there were just over 3,500 flu hospitalizations last flu season and 85 deaths. Dr. Crawford said hospitals are preparing, but don't have as much time to do so due to COVID-19.
Dr. Crawford said there is good news. Flu vaccine distributors are making a lot more available. And, the flu season in the southern hemisphere was lighter this year, possibly because of people taking precautions due to COVID-19.
“If we keep that up, the social distancing, the wearing of masks, washing hands very religiously, those things may diminish that risk of influenza, on top of getting the flu vaccine," he said.
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