Omaha Doctor Says Flu Vaccine Critical To Preventing Potential "Twindemic"

As flu season approaches and COVID-19 cases persist, the flu vaccine will play a critical role in preventing a potential “twindemic” that would put further strain on the health care system, according to Dr. Renuga Vivekanandan, chief of Adult Infectious Diseases at Creighton University’s School of Medicine.

The Centers for Disease Control estimated that last year’s flu season caused as many as 56 million cases and up to 740,000 hospitalizations. Dr. Vivekanandan says without a COVID-19 vaccine, it will be difficult for individuals to distinguish between flu and coronavirus symptoms since both can result in respiratory symptoms, runny nose, fever, cough, chills, body aches and headaches.

“Last winter before COVID-19, many patients were hospitalized with complications from influenza. My concern is stopping the spread of flu to individuals, especially those who are high risk, and overwhelming hospital capacity and health care workers. We really have to do our part to ensure we’re reducing cases of influenza in fall and winter,” Dr. Vivekanandan says.

She advises people to get a flu vaccine as soon as their provider has it available. "Everyone six months and older should receive a flu vaccine, especially high-risk groups, such as children, adults over 65 and those with health complications and chronic illness,"

Some cities across the country are making vaccinations a requirement, while some health care providers are following suit for anyone entering their clinics. 

Dr. Vivekanandan says wearing a mask is one of the easiest ways to prevent the spread of both COVID-19 and influenza cases, and it’s a practice most doctors have always implemented when treating patients with influenza. Since people can spread viruses before they know they are sick, avoiding crowds and keeping six feet of social distance apart from others in public also can reduce the spread of germs.

She says practicing good hygiene is also important, frequent hand washing with soap and water; covering the nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing; avoid touching the eyes, nose or mouth; avoiding close contact with those who are sick can reduce the transmission of germs that can result in the flu and COVID-19.

“If we can follow these measures, we can keep each other protected and prevent an outbreak,” Vivekanandan said.

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