Local health systems stress importance of flu shots to avoid ‘Twindemic’

Published: Sep. 8, 2020 at 7:05 PM CDT


While an approved COVID-19 vaccine is still not available, there is one that can help prevent a similar illness.

The past six months have seen many focus on the coronavirus.

Now as we enter fall, health officials are worried about another virus-- Influenza.

“It’s really important that everyone gets their flu shot this year because what we don’t want is a ‘Twindemic’-- what that means is you have two epidemics going on at the same time,” said Megan Meller, a Gundersen infection preventionist.

Last year only 42 percent of Wisconsinites got the flu vaccine, according to the state health department.

Health officials say you do not have to wait 12 months to get the shot again.

“The idea is that you get it each flu season and the ideal time to get the flu vaccine is right now at the beginning of the season,” said Dr. Charles Peters, a Mayo Clinic consultant pediatrician.

Both Gundersen Health System and Mayo Clinic Health System are already offering flu shots-- anyone is eligible for the vaccine once they turn six months old.

“Babies as young as six months of age can receive the influenza vaccine and then the first time they receive it, they typically receive a booster of it about one month later to be fully protected,” Peters explained.

“For those over the age of 65 we offer a high dose which is a more concentrated version of the influenza shot,” Meller added. “For our patients who are immunocompromised or have underlying health conditions that puts them at risk of more severe illness from the flu, we have another vaccine called the Flulock.”

Health professionals add COVID and flu symptoms can look the same.

“This is one of our fears in healthcare going in to the influenza season is that they are very similar--both present with colds, some present with chills,” Meller said.

“[Symptoms include] fever, muscle or body aches, chills, perhaps cough, sore throat,” Peters added.

Studies show the flu tends to have a more rapid onset, whereas COVID can be more gradual.

Those with any COVID symptoms are encouraged to get tested.

Walgreens and CVS are also offering the flu vaccine right now with varying age requirements.

While some people who get the vaccine still end up with the flu, health experts say symptoms are typically more mild with a faster recovery.

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