This year, getting your flu shot is more important than ever.
Anthony Baffoe-Bonnie, M.D., medical director of Carilion Clinic's Infection Prevention and Control Department, shared information with local media outlets about the vaccine—and about why getting it before Halloween will have the greatest impact.
A few highlights from his interview follow. Watch the video above to learn more about protecting yourself from all respiratory viruses this flu season.
Benefits of the Flu Shot
The most immediate benefit of the flu shot is protection for the person who gets the vaccine. In addition, each person who gets the vaccine is helping to protect everyone in their household and those they're close to.
Getting the flu can have effects far beyond physical health.
"For each family, it's a person lost or a breadwinner who is out of work," said Dr. Baffoe-Bonnie.
But the physical health effects of the flu should not be underestimated.
"Influenza can really kill," he said.
Risks of Not Getting the Flu Shot
As long as you are breathing, you can catch both the flu and the coronavirus.
"You can catch it together, you can catch it one after the other," said Dr. Baffoe-Bonnie. "Anything is possible with these respiratiory pathogens, so yes, you can catch both."
Getting the flu shot will prevent worry and confusion over symptoms that both viruses share.
"This year we are encouraging people to get vaccinated early for influenza," said Dr. Baffoe-Bonnie. "With two respiratory illnesses with similar symptoms, our hope is that people do not get infected with both."
If there is anything close to a silver lining about coronavirus, it's the potential for coronavirus prevention measures to result in lower influenza activity.
Dr. Baffoe-Bonnie referenced people in the southern hemisphere, where influenza specialists look to see influenza activity ahead of our flu season.
"Most populations were making sure hand hygiene was being done very conscientiously, social distancing was occurring, and the use of face masks was also a big thing," he said, all to prevent the spread of COVID. As a result, "we have seen a lower activity of influenza in the southern hemisphere."
That is somewheat reassuring, but it will not predict flu activity here unless we practice the same behaviors.
For the flu, for coronavirus and for other respiratory illnesses, the best way to prevent the illness is to prevent exposure. Carilion Clinic’s Infectious Disease experts strongly recommend that everyone:
- Stay home whenever possible.
- Avoid crowds and enclosed spaces if you must go out.
- Wash your hands, keep your distance and wear a mask—every time.