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Preparing for a twindemic: Flu season meets COVID-19

Photo by CDC 

During a regular year, the flu season affects more than 9.3 million Americans according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). However, with the rising toll of people becoming infected with COVID-19, scientists and immunologists at the CDC and World Health Organization (WHO) predict that the overlap of the flu and COVID-19 will create what is being referred to as a twindemic.

As of Sept. 23, the CDC reports that there is a confirmed total of 6,874,982 people who have tested positive for COVID, as well as 200,275 recorded COVID-related deaths, making the United States one of the top infected countries in the world. The U.S. is also entering flu season; according to WebMD, in a normal year, the flu infects 5% to 20% of Americans, hospitalizes an average of 200,000 people, and—depending on the year—kills between 3,000 to 49,000 people.

Due to the continuously rising rate of people testing positive for COVID-19 and the absence of a cure for the flu, health professionals are urging Americans to get their flu shot. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and one of the lead members of the Trump administration’s White House Coronavirus Task Force, has been instructing people to get the flu shot “so that you could at least blunt the effect of one of those two potential respiratory infections,” as he was quoted in Newsweek.

Photo by CDC 

The New York Times, reporting on the rise on the twindemic, found that “[the] flu shares symptoms with COVID-19: fever, headache, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, and fatigue. Flu can leave patients vulnerable to a harsher attack of COVID-19, doctors believe, and coming down with both viruses at once could be disastrous.”

According to the CDC, flu season occurs in the fall and winter, peaking from December to February; this time frame was nearing the end of flu season when the pandemic began to flare in the United States back in March.

“Vaccine makers are projecting that a record 98 million flu shots will be given this year in the United States, about 15 percent more than doses ordered last year. The Kaiser Permanente health care system will be flooding more than 12 million of its members with flu shot reminders via postcard, email, text, and phone calls,” reports the New York Times.

While doctor‘s offices and health care providers are preparing to distribute the flu shot, many people will continue to waive receiving it. In the same report, the New York Times accounts that “Skepticism to this vaccine runs high, particularly in communities of color because of longstanding distrust and discrimination in public health.” A 2017 study in the journal Vaccine noted that, when compared with white people, “African Americans were more likely to report barriers to vaccination, were more hesitant about vaccines in general and the flu vaccine specifically, and were more likely to believe in conspiracy theories and use naturalism as an alternative to getting vaccinated.” Due to the health system repeatedly failing people of color and indigenous communities, COVID has drastically impacted these communities as reported by NPR.

Photo by Afif Kusuma

The flu vaccine can be obtained from drugstores such as CVS and Walgreens for a low cost with insurance, or for approximately $30, ranging from chain to chain. Health centers like Kaiser Permanente and Vera Whole Health Center also offer flu shots for free for people covered by insurance. While there is no current vaccine for COVID-19, there is one for the flu; and to protect each other, it is crucial to get your flu shot.

You can find official Mills updates about COVID-19 here.

Vera Student Health Center on campus will continue to remain open; if you begin to show symptoms of COVID-19, it is important to call them first at (510) 671-3985 before heading over.

To learn more and get the most current updates, visit The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Coronavirus 2019-nCoV, and UC Berkeley’s health advisory.