Will wearing masks reduce flu cases amid COVID-19 pandemic?

Coronavirus

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Healthcare experts are on high alert as flu season arrives amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are all concerned about a ‘twin-demic’,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an Infectious Disease Specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.

Austinite Louise Brazitis isn’t taking any chances. She got her flu shot last week.

“Just booked it online, reserved a time and was able to get it about 10 minutes later,” said Brazitis. “You are not sure if you are having a sore throat or a high temperature and if it is coronavirus or the flu so I take the extra precaution. Definitely gives peace of mind.”

Dr. Schaffner says COVID-19 and the flu are a dangerous combination, especially for our healthcare system.

“The flu in and of itself can put a strain on the healthcare system. The two of them together could really be a double strain, so that we will have a very hard time taking care of sick patients,” said Schaffner.

While Schaffner says a flu shot is important this year, wearing masks is just as crucial.

“We talked to the people in Australia and New Zealand and they had the lowest flu season ever and they attribute that to two things,” said Schaffner.

One of these reasons: more flu vaccines are being given out, according to Schaffner.

“But number two is their populations were really quite compliant with mask wearing and social distancing,” said Dr. Schaffner.

Masks not only help keep people safe from COVID-19, but also from other airborne viruses. Dr. Schaffner says this could mean we see lower cases of the flu this year, but only time will tell.

“We are recommending everyone wear masks,” said Dr. Schaffner. “Of course you have all heard that because of COVID, but masks will help us protect against influenza.”

Dr. Schaffner recommends getting a flu shot as soon as possible.

Austin Public Health is hosting two flu shot distribution events: 

  • October 24, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. – Southeast Library, 5803 Nuckols Crossing Rd (walk-up)
  • November 7, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. – Travis County Expo Center, 7311 Decker Lane (drive-thru)

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