Most people follow public health advice to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but many continue to ignore the warnings. As flu season approaches, taking precautions to prevent illness is more important than ever.
Leaders with five local health organizations met Monday morning at the Sangamon County Department of Public Health to encourage the public to not avoid or delay getting their flu shots this season.
“This year more than ever, we should all be aware of what we can do to prevent the spread of infectious diseases like influenza and COVID-19,” said Dr. Raj Govindaiah, senior vice president and chief medical officer of Memorial Health System. “This year everyone should get a flu shot, continue to wear a mask, wash your hands, socially distance and stay home if you are sick.”
Although influenza activity occurs year-round, infections increase in fall and winter – usually between October and May in the United States.
“No one should delay seeking healthcare. Healthcare providers throughout the region are fully prepared to take care of our patients’ needs in a safe environment,” Dr. Gurpreet Mander, chief physician executive for HSHS Illinois, said. “We adhere to all safety guidelines recommended by the CDC and IDPH, including screening of staff and visitors for COVID-19 symptoms and wearing masks. We also follow the IDPH guidelines for scheduling elective procedures’ safely. We encourage everyone in the community to get a flu vaccine.”
“COVID-19 and the flu look alike in some ways, have very similar symptoms and are transmitted in the same way. It is possible to get both infections. If this occurs, the outcome is likely to be worse,” said Springfield Clinic’s Dr. Steven O’Marro, an infectious diseases specialist.
Both infections can be life threatening to older people, O’Marro said. Influenza A can also cause severe illness in pregnant women and younger people, but there is a vaccine for influenza.
“In many ways, preventing the flu requires some of the same actions used to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Vidya Sundareshan, professor of internal medicine and co-chief of infectious diseases at SIU School of Medicine. “Because flu is transmitted like COVID-19, wearing your facemask, hand washing and watching distance will reduce the chances that you might become infected. You can reduce that risk further this fall and winter with a flu shot and a real shot at health.”