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People Might Confuse Flu Symptoms with COVID 19 Symptoms Amid Renewed Calls to get Flu Shot

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A cool change in weather across Central New York is also a signal to get prepared for the flu season ahead as it overlaps with COVID-19.  The Medical Director of Blue Cross Blue Shield of CNY says it's challenging to distinguish between the viruses because both present differently from person to person.  Dr. Nick Massa says getting our flu shots now helps to provide our community a level of immunity.

“The first and foremost thing we should do in terms of the flu is to try to make sure that everyone who is an appropriate candidate- and that’s most everyone- get that flu vaccine. I think it’s especially important this year because our flu season will overlap with what is likely to be a difficult fall and winter given the existence of COVID.”

The CDC lists common symptoms that COVID-19 and flu share, including:

·         Fever or feeling feverish/chills

·         Cough

·         Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

·         Fatigue (tiredness)

·         Sore throat

·         Runny or stuffy nose

·         Muscle pain or body aches

·         Headache

·         Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults

Massa adds that last flu season seemed to end earlier with everyone distanced and people at home because of COVID-19.  He's unsure if the protocols we're using to stop the spread of the virus will lead to lower flu cases but, he recommends to stay the course.

“Avoiding others when we’re coughing or sick with symptoms, wearing masks; I think all of these things certainly have the potential to contribute to a milder flu season. But it is very challenging to know what is going to happen.”

Massa reminds us that it takes approximately two weeks before the flu vaccine provides protection.  People 65 and older may want to ask their doctor if they can have the high-dose vaccine. A New England Journal of Medicine study found the vaccine is 24-percent more effective for that population.

Credit Excellus Blue Cross Blue Sheild / Blue Cross Blue Shield Association
Blue Cross Blue Shield Association