As the flu season approaches in the United States, healthcare providers are warning that the addition of another respiratory illness on top of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic could strain testing capacity, increase the risk of catching both diseases at once and overburden the healthcare system.
According to a national study through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a bad flu season, 40 to 50 million Americans may catch the flu, with some 800,000 requiring hospitalization. Researchers and healthcare experts emphasize that with the onset of the flu season, flu cases and COVID-19 cases will peak at the same time. Even with a mild flu season, the convergence with a COVID surge could very rapidly overwhelm the country’s healthcare systems.
Flu shots available at the facilities below
Ellisville Medical Clinic, no appointment necessary..
1203 Ave. B, Ellisville; 601-477-8553
Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., and Saturday, 8 a.m.-noon
Ellisville Pediatric Clinic, by appointment for existing patients
1203 Ave. B, Ellisville; 601-477-3550
Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Laurel Family Clinic, by appointment for existing patients.
1440 Jefferson St., Laurel; 601-428-0577
Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-5 p.m.
SCRMC Pediatrics, by appointment for existing patients.
1002 Jefferson St., Suite 200, Laurel; 601-649-3520
Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
SCRMC Urgent Care, no appointment necessary.
1430 Jefferson St., Laurel; 601-425-2273
Open seven days per week
Unlike COVID-19, the flu has a safe and effective vaccine that is available every year.
“The best medicine is prevention, so if we can offer a vaccine that will hopefully keep someone from getting the flu, that will help out a lot overall,” said Dr. Kelly Tullos, family medicine physician at Laurel Family Clinic. “There is a misconception that the flu vaccine will give you the flu. The flu vaccine is not going to give you the flu. The flu virus that is in the flu vaccine is a dead virus. The flu shot is different every year.
“What the CDC does when they are making the flu vaccine is research what flu viruses were most prominent the year prior and that is the actual strains of flu they put in the most current vaccine.”
For both the flu and COVID-19, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions are more susceptible, but the flu also hits children particularly hard and spreads readily in schools.
“The more people in all age groups who get a flu vaccine, the more protected these vulnerable populations will be,” Tullos said.
The time to get a flu vaccination is early in the flu season.
“It is best to have your flu shot in late September or early October in order to ensure that you have time ¸— usually two weeks — to develop an immune response before there is widespread transmission of the flu,” Tullos said. “A flu vaccine in this time frame generally provides protection throughout the entire flu season.”
South Central reminds the community that it is also possible to be infected with the flu and COVID-19 at the same time.
“Healthcare providers are encouraging all of our patients to get flu vaccines,” Tullos said. “I definitely do not want people to get the flu with COVID. The flu can make a person feel bad and as we know, COVID can make you feel terrible, so having both of them together could be pretty detrimental overall.”
In the 2018-19 flu season, about 49 percent of Americans received a flu vaccine, avoiding an estimated 4.4 million illnesses, 58,000 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths, according to the CDC. Experts hope more Americans will choose to get a flu shot this year — for themselves and for others.
South Central Regional Medical Center encourages all members of our community to get a flu shot during October. Flu shots save lives.