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Health Team

Getting a flu shot 'super important' during COVID-19

Posted September 9, 2020 10:54 a.m. EDT
Updated September 9, 2020 11:39 a.m. EDT

— Two doctors from UNC Health held a discussion Wednesday to compare the flu and COVID-19 and how to prepare for both this fall and winter.

What are the differences between the flu and COVID-19?

Symptoms of the flu and COVID-19 are very similar, such as fever, body aches, fatigue, cough, headache, runny nose and shortness or breath. There is no one symptom that distinguishes one from the other. For that reason, it's important to tell your doctor about any symptoms you experience.

Both the flu and COVID-19 can lead to severe respiratory illness and have high morbidity rates, but wearing a mask, washing your hands and maintaining social distancing can help slow the spread of both viruses.

The biggest difference? There is a vaccine ready right now to help prevent the flu, doctors said, and it's an important part of staying healthy.

Is it still important to get a flu shot if we’re all wearing masks and social distancing?

Yes. "It is super super important," said Dr. Cheryl Jackson, medical director of the Pediatric Emergency Department at UNC Medical Center. "It is important to prevent what you can."

Even with social distancing, getting a flu shot protects yourself and others. If fewer people become severely ill from the flu, there will be more hospital beds and resources available for COVID-19 patients and those who need other kinds of care.

Dr. Amir Barzin, a family medicine physician at UNC Health, pointed out that, even if an immunized person gets the flu, their chances of avoiding severe illness are better. Hospitals, doctors offices and clinics are working to make sure getting the flu vaccine is safe, so there is no excuse not to get one.

Can someone be tested for COVID and flu at the same time?

Yes. Healthcare leaders are working to get one-swab tests that will be more effective in diagnosing both and that will be more comfortable to patients.

When is the right time to get a flu shot?

According to the CDC, people 6 months and older should get influenza vaccines by the end of October, although the vaccine should be offered throughout flu season.

What are some little things we can do every day to stay well?

  • Stay home if you feel sick.
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow and wash your hands frequently.
  • Maintain at least 6 feet of social distance from people.
  • Wear a face covering that covers your nose and mouth in public.
  • Avoid large gatherings or crowds.
  • Wipe off the handle of your shopping cart and other frequently touched surfaces.
  • Get a flu shot and take any other preventative measures your doctor recommends.
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