Is America At Risk for a ‘Twindemic?’ Experts Weigh In
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During the first half of 2020, the U.S. population learned a new way of living. Today, wearing a mask, maintaining social distance and sanitizing everything have become part of our normal lifestyle. So far, these measures have proven to be successful in slowing down the spread of the virus.
However, many experts are warning that a new crisis is ahead of us. What is a twindemic and how can it overload the healthcare system again? In this post, I’ll cover essential questions everyone has regarding this subject.
What is a ‘twindemic’?
Medically, there is no such term as a ‘twindemic.’ However, more experts are using it to describe the potential future ahead for the U.S.
Basically, right now we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. It’s a controllable, less-threatening one, but still a pandemic – one that caused more than 192,000 deaths in the U.S. as the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center stated on September 11th.
With that in mind, let’s think about the upcoming flu season. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 35.5 million U.S. citizens suffered from influenza in 2018-2019 causing 34,200 deaths.
For the first time, the potential flu epidemic is about to overlap the COVID-19 pandemic, hence the term ‘twindemic.’ When they collide, the consequences could be devastating.
Should I get a flu shot? If so, when?
Gladly, the same measures you take to protect yourself against the COVID-19 can help to keep you safe from the flu. However, there’s one more thing you can do: get a shot.
John B. Lynch, M.D., associate professor in the division of infectious disease at the Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, says that there’s no way to even think twice about this option.
‘Getting the influenza shot is critical – it’s more important this year than ever.’
Specialists agree that everyone should get the vaccine regardless of age. In times of such health risks, it’s crucial that children, teenagers, adults and the elderly all take this measure.
However, statistics aren’t that good. According to Robert R. Redfield, MD, director of the CDC, less than 50% of Americans got a flu vaccine in previous years. For this year, Redfield adds, the goal is to vaccinate at least 65% of the U.S. population. However, the rise of anti-vaxxers might exacerbate the issue.
Do I have to get the flu shot even if I’m healthy?
Many people mistakenly believe that only the population at risk should vaccinate themselves against the flu. People at risk for flu complications include:
- Adults over 50
- Pregnant women
- Patients with underlying health conditions such as: diabetes, obesity, heart disease, kidney disease, COPD, sickle cell disease;
For these categories of people, getting the flu vaccine is mandatory particularly with the ongoing risk for getting COVID-19. However, it’s equally important that healthy individuals get the shot too in order to avoid complications.
Furthermore, note that children are at higher risk to develop severe complications from the flu and COVID-19. If there’s a vaccine available for at least one of those two illnesses, why not take it?
How do I know if it’s COVID-19 or the flu?
Excellent question. Both the flu and COVID-19 have similar symptoms, which can make putting a diagnosis at home difficult.
Similar signs of COVID-19 and the flu include the following:
- Fever and/or chills
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle pain and/or body aches
- Sore throat
Additionally, even vomiting and diarrhea may be common to the flu and COVID-19 especially when it comes to children.
One difference, though, is that COVID-19 can cause loss of smell and taste; this sign has never been encountered in flu patients.
Can I get COVID-19 and the flu simultaneously?
Unfortunately, Dr. Lynch says that anyone exposed to the flu and COVID-19 can become infected with both illnesses at the same time.
If it does happen, chances are you’re going to experience severe symptoms of either one or both diseases. That’s because the immune system is overwhelmed as it tries to fight off two entirely different viruses attacking the body.
Furthermore, Lynch adds, it’s even harder for a doctor to find the right treatment for both conditions. That’s because usually one medication plan can interact with the other negatively.
How likely is it to get the flu this season?
Experts are following statistics recorded in the Southern Hemisphere (Australia, South Africa) throughout the summer to estimate the severity of the upcoming flu season in the U.S.
Thankfully, Dr. Lynch says that this year our planet is showing the littlest influenza activity worldwide in 12 years. This is also probably due to all of the safety measures adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic: wearing a mask, washing hands frequently, social distancing all play a role in stopping the spread of both influenza and COVID-19.
What are you doing to stay safe this season? Share your answers in the comment section and let’s chat!