COVID-19 and the Flu: Health First Teaches You How to Protect Yourself from Sickness

By  //  October 4, 2020

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BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – We’ve heard the same questions and concerns for weeks – “How will I stay safe during the flu season wrapped inside a global pandemic?”

Right now, we’re having to deal with COVID-19 and the impact it has on the flu season, and vice versa. What we do know is that COVID-19 is a deadly disease that continues to impact every neighborhood and hospital across our nation.

And as for seasonal influenza, it brings its own worries.

“Every year in America, 30,000 to 80,000 people die from influenza,” said Dr. Timothy Laird, Interim Chief Medical Officer with Health First Medical Group.

Click here to watch the full Health First Webex event.

The current overlap of both illnesses has some people questioning if they should still get the flu shot, when is the best time to do so, and if it’s possible to have the flu and COVID-19 at the same time.

Dr. Laird and Dr. Jayde George, Health First’s Virtual Care Medical Director, recently discussed these important topics during a Health First Webex event. They also addressed the benefits of Virtual Visits during the ongoing public health crisis.

Let’s start with what’s on everyone’s radar: According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is possible to have the flu, as well as other respiratory illnesses and COVID-19 at the same time, making the health impact even worse.

As far as the getting the flu shot, it comes highly recommended. The CDC encourages everyone six months of age and older to get a flu shot.

“It’s absolutely safe and one of the most important years to get a flu vaccine,” Dr. George said. “Both illnesses are terrible, so to be able to be protected against one aspect is extremely important this year. Now is the best time to get your flu vaccine. The earlier, the better.”

However, it’s important to note that the flu and COVID-19 are caused by different viruses, and the flu vaccine is intended solely for the prevention of the flu, not COVID-19.

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Don’t fall victim to the myths – one being the flu vaccine will actually make you sick. That’s not true. While the flu vaccine can cause mild side effects such as achiness and fatigue for a day, this is certainly not the flu – which would be much more severe and prolonged.

But it could get a little confusing if you become ill these next few months. COVID-19 and influenza are respiratory illnesses that have similar symptoms that can be difficult to figure out.

The CDC outlines key symptoms of each respiratory illness:

Influenza (Flu)
▪ Fever or feeling feverish/chills
▪ Cough
▪ Muscle or body aches
▪ Fatigue
▪ Runny or stuffy nose
▪ Headache
▪ Sore throat

▪ Fever or chills
▪ Cough
▪ Muscle or body aches
▪ Fatigue
▪ Headache
▪ Sore throat
▪ Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
▪ Loss of taste and/or smell

“The one major symptom that stands out that’s different between COVID-19 and influenza is that loss of taste and smell, which is common among our COVID-19 patients,” Dr. George said.

Some protection is better than no protection at all. This year’s flu season could be lighter than usual because of the ongoing physical distancing, hand-washing and wearing face masks, but there’s no guarantee.

And it’s all about the bigger picture, for those who are on the fence about getting the flu shot.

“Get it for your kids, your parents, others in the community,” Dr. Laird said. “The flu shot is the best way to avoid the flu. While it isn’t 100% protective, it’s better to have some protection than no protection at all when it comes to being prepared and safe.”

If you’re still unsure how to tell the difference between the flu and COVID-19 symptoms, help is available in the comfort of your own home with our Virtual Visit services. This smartphone or computer screen option has changed the way we provide healthcare needs.

At its peak, patients took full control of our Virtual Visit options.

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“In March, we started off doing about 20 to 30 visits per week and by the middle of April, we were doing anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 Virtual Visits per week,” Dr. George said.

Three hundred Health First Medical Group Providers and specialists have been able to connect with patients during the pandemic. Some services included chronic and preventive care, patient evaluations, prescription refills, going over lab results, mental health evaluations and more. Our patients’ needs come first, which is why we’ve offered Virtual Visits seven days a week with extended hours in the mornings and evenings.

Going into flu season, Virtual Visits are considered a “win-win.” They allow most cold and flu symptoms to be identified and treated from the comfort of home, but they also protect patients who must come in to the office, as well as associates who are there, too.

It’s crucial that you don’t put off your next flu shot or other healthcare needs during the pandemic and the upcoming flu season. We fully understand how important our Virtual Visit services are to our Brevard neighbors and friends and will continue to provide this important, convenient technology to those who need it the most. Call 321.434.3131 to schedule a Virtual Visit appointment with one of our dedicated providers or to arrange the next available date to get your flu shot.

Click here to watch the full Health First Webex event.