Doctors weigh impact of flu season during COVID-19

Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Flu season usually hits Central Texas in the fall, but this year doctors are already thinking of its impact during COVID-19. 

“What we found with the COVID situation is that young babies, although they may become infected are usually not that sick, not with the severe illness. Whereas with influenza… infants are very at high risk for having complications,” said Dr. Sarmistha Hauger, Co-chair of the Texas Pediatric Society’s Committee on Infectious Diseases and Immunizations.

According to Texas Department of State Health Services, there were 20 pediatric flu-related deaths across Texas during this last flu season. There have been eight COVID-19 deaths in the state among kids and teens between the ages of 10 to 19.

Is it the flu or coronavirus?

Dr. Hauger said parents will need to pay attention to symptoms which can be similar. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms for both COVID-19 and flu include:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle pain or body aches
  • Headache
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults

The CDC said a difference in coronavirus is loss of taste and smell, but testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis. 

“It can be confusing in fact as doctors we are thinking to yourselves how are we going to tell the difference,” said Dr. Hauger. 

Can a flu shot prevent COVID-19?

“Every child older than six months needs to get a flu vaccine,” explained Dr. Hauger. “That’s the best way that we’re going to prevent influenza, the best way we’ll get less illness, the best way we’ll keep kids out of hospitals — keep our beds open for kids that need to go in for COVID.”

KXAN investigators checked with a number of pediatricians who are waiting on flu vaccines. They said their stock of flu shots should be here in the next few weeks before we start seeing flu activity.

“Flu shots won’t prevent COVID-19, but they will reduce the burden of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths on the health care system and conserve medical resources for the care of people with COVID-19,” said Lara Anton, Press Officer with the Texas Department of State Health Services. 

Anton explained that they don’t anticipate a shortage of flu shots this year, but getting one is especially important because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Hauger said that immunizations are down across the country because of fear of exposure to the virus. She encourages parents to call their doctor and check on safety measures put in place. 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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