4 News Now Q&A: What will flu season look like in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Flu season is quickly approaching and many people have questions about what it will look like in the midst of a global pandemic.

Health experts say it is hard to know how the flu will interact with COVID-19 at this point. However, we do know very few people have contracted the flu at the same time as COVID-19, so far.

Those sick with both have experienced mild symptoms. Still, health experts are preparing for the worst.

They say if an extremely active flu season overlaps with the pandemic, we could be putting a lot of stress on the health care system.

“Because of the challenges, the ongoing challenges we have with testing capacity, it may take us a while to figure out whether a person who has a fever actually has COVID or something else, which means more people will be isolated for longer and also means it will be harder to keep schools and workplaces open,” said Dr. Vivek Murthy, former U.S. Surgeon General.

To help keep them open, health experts say getting a flu vaccine will be more important than ever this season. They say there are three reasons for that: for yourself, for others and to reduce fear.

“I think it’s important to remember it’s not either COVID-19 or influenza. It’s both,” said Dr. Jennifer Ashton. “We have to keep our eyes on multiple things at the same time. So double down on all the things we can control, keep doing those measures that are so important to stop the spread of COVID-19. But, the influenza vaccine is starting to be out and available at pharmacies, clinics, doctor’s offices. The CDC is urging everyone six months of age and over to get vaccinated. Control the things we can control.”

It is not all bad news. Dr. Ashton says we’re seeing some encouraging statistics. In some parts of the world, the flu has been almost non-existent this year, thanks to COVID-19.

“It’s not all doom and gloom. We look to the southern hemisphere, there are some silver linings, possibly, to the pandemic. If you look at what’s going on in South Africa, in a general flu season they normally have a thousand cases of influenza. So far, 2020, just one. They’re largely attributing it to the coronavirus mitigation measures like masking, social distancing and hand washing. So maybe that will be our experience, too,” Dr. Ashton said.

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