Flu season is almost here, which means it’s time for a flu shot. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), getting your shot this year may be more important than in the past as the possibility of an influenza and coronavirus “twindemic” during the cold weather months looms.
This year’s flu vaccine, approved and recommended for everyone six months or older, protects against four strains. While the CDC reports that peak flu season isn’t until February, the agency is recommending that people not wait to get vaccinated.
While it’s uncertain what will happen in the fall and winter, the CDC believes it’s likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both be spreading at that time. Additionally, relaxed COVID mitigation measures (such as stay-at-home orders or mask mandates) may result in an increase in flu activity during the 2021–2022 flu season.
During the 2020-2021 season, flu cases were unusually low, with 0.2% of specimens collected testing positive for flu compared with rates that peaked between 26.2% and 30.3% in the three previous seasons. The CDC reports that this is likely due to the strict restrictions that were put in place at the onset of the pandemic.
The Arkansas Department of Health started offering flu shots at local health units in late September and hosts a list of resources online for flu shot sites and COVID vaccine clinic sites. Both are free, but be sure to bring your insurance information with you if you have it. The CDC also reports that it is safe to get both vaccines at the same time.
This flu season, it will also be even more important to monitor any flu or COVID symptoms that you might have. Typically, mutual symptoms of both viruses include:
- Fever, chills or feeling feverish
- Cough or sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Nausea or vomiting
Some ways to prevent the spread of either virus include washing your hands, sneezing and coughing into your elbow, staying home if you don’t feel well and cleaning high-touch surfaces in your home (doorknobs, handles, light switches, etc.) regularly.
It’s not just important to stay home from work when not feeling well, but also from other gathering places. To help employees avoid using too many sick days, though, company leaders may consider offering the ability to work from home. Reminding employees about getting their flu shot and COVID vaccine are also steps that employers can take toward maintaining a healthier workplace. Other precautions like regularly cleaning communal workspaces and placing hand sanitizer throughout the workplace are ways of visibly promoting employee wellness.
This flu season is going to be challenging, but with the right resources and the right mindset, you can protect yourself and others around you. Don’t wait until you get the flu – be proactive in doing your part to prevent spreading the virus.