Flu season and COVID-19 could pack dangerous punch for community

Carilion infectious disease expert says you should get your flu shot ASAP

ROANOKE, Va. – Healthcare workers are on high alert to see what happens with the coronavirus pandemic this fall, especially with flu season right around the corner.

An infectious disease specialist with Carilion Clinic, Dr. Anthony Baffoe-Bonnie, said getting the flu shot is more important this year than ever before.

The coinciding flu season and the coronavirus pandemic could take a toll not only on the community’s health but also on the number of available hospital beds and healthcare workers.

“We also want to make sure that we don’t have large pools of people sick at a time that could overrun healthcare systems nationwide," said Baffoe-Bonnie.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), during the 2019-2020 flu season, there were up to 56 million flu cases, 740,000 hospitalizations and 62,000 deaths.

The CDC also reports that, so far in the U.S., there have been more than 6 million COVID-19 cases, about 530,000 hospitalizations and nearly 190,00 deaths.

However, not everyone shares the same fear about the fall, including twins Sierra and Layla Perdue.

“I’m not really worried about it," said Sierra.

Aaron Perry, who lives in Roanoke, said he probably won’t get the flu shot this year.

“I’m not going to get one because, you know, I’m healthy. I do what I need to do. I haven’t been sick and it hasn’t affected many people I know either,” said Perry. "I don’t think [this flu season] will be any different than any other year.”

Baffoe-Bonnie is hoping that increased hand-washing, mask-wearing and social distancing that prevents the spread of COVID-19, could also reduce the spread of the flu this year.

He said that the number of flu cases were greatly decreased in the Southern Hemisphere, which is just wrapping up its flu season. However, the public should not take that chance.

“We can’t just work on hope. We have to also make sure that we are doing those very things, plus getting immunized and getting immunized quickly,” said Baffoe-Bonnie.

The flu shot isn’t 100 percent effective. Baffoe-Bonnie said it works about 40% to 67% of the time because the flu virus can mutate. Nevertheless, he said the flu shot will still decrease the severity of symptoms and reduce the chance of hospitalization.

Betsy Quillen, a mom of three, said she’ll do whatever to protect her family and the community at large.

“If I can do something as simple as getting a flu shot, the more I can do to cut back on that strain, I’m going to do it," said Quillen. “I think we need to keep those healthcare workers and beds for the people that need it more.”

Carilion Clinic is offering free community flu shot clinics that are open to the public. Click here to learn more.

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