Doctors fear flu season could be bad on top of Covid-19

Sep 30, 2021, 7:13 PM | Updated: 7:21 pm

MURRAY, Utah — There’s been a lot of focus on getting Utahns vaccinated against COVID-19, and doctors are now urging everyone to get the seasonal flu shot, too. There are several reasons they say that’s critical this year.

A year ago, the flu season was practically nonexistent because of all of the precautions we took to avoid Covid. But, fewer people are taking those measures seriously this year, so doctors fear influenza will spread more easily.

“It’s time to get your flu vaccine. The CDC recommends that October is our prime time,” said Dr. Tamara Sheffield, the director of preventive medicine at Intermountain Healthcare.

Dr. Sheffield said it’s important to build up immunity to protect before flu cases emerge.

“In November and December we start to see cases,” she said. “The majority of our cases usually happen in the January and February time frame.”

Just like a year ago, caregivers fear an influx of influenza patients in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It really is important for us this year when we have our hospitals full to make sure that we reduce the number influenza cases,” the doctor said.

It’s more troubling this year because Covid-19 case rates are higher as the indoor season arrives. Sheffield points out everyone starts spending a lot more time inside, together as the weather cools.

“Last year everybody was doing a really good job of social distancing and masking, and we’re not having those same behaviors this year. We have a lot more individuals who are out in public unmasked, and gathering in big gatherings, as well,” she said.

That leads to a greater chance of spreading both Covid and influenza. But, last year, she said, the public heeded the call: Intermountain Healthcare administered 6% more influenza doses than the previous year, and it made a difference.

“In January and February, when I track flu cases, I usually see 1000 cases per week, we had zero cases,” Sheffield said.

And no RSV, which is particularly tough on kids.

“Because we were being very protective in our behaviors, and not passing those viruses between us.”

Check with your doctor or pharmacy about getting getting your flu shot. Most insurance plans cover the vaccine, and many pharmacies offer it free.

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Doctors fear flu season could be bad on top of Covid-19