You can get COVID-19 and the flu at the same time, said Dr. Tim Hendrix, medical director of AdventHealth Centra Care.
With flu season just around the corner, AdventHealth is issuing a reminder for people to get vaccinated to prevent an added burden on hospitals as health care workers continue to treat COVID-19 patients.
During an AdventHealth morning briefing on Thursday, Sept. 3, Dr. Tim Hendrix, medical director of AdventHealth Centra Care, said flu puts a strain in their system every year. While COVID-19 hospitalizations are on the decline — with just 300 patients in the hospital system's seven-county region — Hendrix said it is a slow decline. At any point, especially if Labor Day celebrations result in large gatherings, he said the public could start seeing those numbers rise up again.
“My favorite term that I’ve read is the ‘twindemic,'" Hendrix said. "I mean it sounds awful, but basically, you’re dealing with two epidemics — you’re dealing with COVID and you’re dealing with your seasonal flu — at the same time.”
Flu and COVID-19 have similar symptoms and, as viruses targeting the respiratory system, are spread the same way. Masks will help to prevent the spread, but unlike the coronavirus, Hendrix said the public has an additional defense against the flu: a vaccine.
At Centra Care facilities, Hendrix said about 30%-50% of adults get a flu shot each year, but they are aiming to increase that percentage for the 2020-2021 season. You can get both COVID-19 and the flu at the same time, he said, and if that happens, there is an increased chance patients will end up hospitalized.
“The risk of complications is higher with co-infection like that, so again, another good reason to get your flu shot," he said.
Generally, Hendrix said people do well with the vaccine, and some that say they got sick after receiving a vaccine often mistake the common cold for the flu.
"When they create the vaccine, they’re using parts of a dead virus," Hendrix said. "It’s impossible for you to get an infection from the flu shot because it’s not alive.”
Flu season officially begins in November, but Hendrix said cases will begin climbing in October. People wanting to get a flu shot this year should do so before Halloween, he advised.