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US doctors look to Australia to predict flu season severity

Published: Oct. 8, 2020 at 5:24 AM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Doctors in the US are looking to Australia to get an idea of what our flu season may look like.

Dr. Amy Seery at Ascension Via Christi says Australia had a mild flu season. In the southern hemisphere, flu season started around the same time as the pandemic. Doctors say that the social distancing and mask mandates prevented the spread of COVID, as well as the flu.

The flu and COVID-19 are not the same, but they are both respiratory illnesses and have similar patterns of spread. Dr. Seery says people living in Australia washed their hands more frequently, wore masks and avoided close contact with people outside of their household.

Hospitals are concerned. Healthcare workers say flu patients in addition to COVID patients could overwhelm healthcare resources. That’s why doctors are urging people to take all the precautions to avoid getting either virus.

Dr. Seery says hospitals are built for the average patient load. Hospitals have enough beds for flu patients in the winter and don’t have much extra room.

It is possible to get the flu and COVID at the same time. Since COVID is a new illness, doctors do not know all the short and long-term impacts of getting both viruses.

“Yes, it is absolutely possible to get both viruses in your system, unfortunately. And both of them causing lots of inflammation and stress upon your immune system, the severity of such an illness is still not widely understood, but it makes doctors like me nervous,” Dr. Seery says.

Dr. Seery strongly recommends getting a flu shot in addition to social distancing. She explains that the flu vaccines does not contain a live virus. You may feel a bit sick after a flu vaccine, but you do not have the flu.

“It’s common as a reaction to have some soreness, to have maybe a very low-grade fever for less than a day, and also just a little bit of generalized achy-ness. That is your immune system working and that’s a great sign that the comfort to have it is not in fact an illness and you cannot get some words severe complications, like pneumonia or anything like that for most flu shot. It’s just not possible,” Dr. Seery says.

Search your zip code on vaccinefinder.org to see where flu shots are available near you.

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