Here's What You Need To Know About Flu Season And COVID-19

MetroHealth's Dr. David Margolius says getting a flu vaccine is one of the most important ways to slow the spread of the flu. [hedgehog94 / Shutterstock]
MetroHealth's Dr. David Margolius says getting a flu vaccine is one of the most important ways to slow the spread of the flu. [hedgehog94 / Shutterstock]

The combined flu and COVID-19 pandemics could cause a "twindemic," said Dr. David David Margolius Thursday on Ideastream Public Media's The Sound of Ideas. 

There are many respiratory viruses circulating in addition to COVID-19, including the flu virus, the common cold, and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, said Dr. Margolius, director of internal medicine at MetroHealth.

"Any symptom, even something that might feel like your seasonal allergies, could be COVID," he said. "When you're sick, be extra careful, and I think that could go a long way to helping protect our community."

Now is a good time to get the flu vaccine, as well as the COVID-19 vaccine for those who haven't already gotten it, Margolius said,

There is one piece of good news when it comes to the upcoming flu pandemic, Margolius said.

"We've seen, still, historically low cases in the Southern Hemisphere, which is where we would look to see what we might expect with the flu season here," he said. 

"So I think we're cautiously optimistic, but want to be prepared as we can be, and the way to do that is with the flu vaccine."

COVID-19 hospitalizations are currently at levels we hadn't seen since last winter. It's possible those numbers are peaking, and experts are hopeful we'll see a decrease soon, but a surge in these other viruses may threaten that. 

"Our hospitals are overwhelmed. They have a lot of very ill patients," said Summit County Health Commissioner Donna Skoda, who was also on Thursday's The Sound of Ideas. 

Due to the current surge, hospitals near Akron are reaching capacity, and patients have had to be transferred to other hospitals and some have had to travel to receive treatment. 

In addition to higher rates of hospitalized patients, hospitals are also dealing with staffing shortages due to people needing a break during the seemingly endless COVID-19 pandemic, people leaving the health care field altogether, or providers getting sick and having to quarantine, said Cleveland Clinic's Dr. Robert Willey, who also leads Northern Ohio's COVID-19 response for the state of Ohio.

"I think everybody's tired of the pandemic, and certainly it's a strain on health care staff," Willey said on The Sound of Ideas. 

"It's a hard situation," Margolius said. "The staffing shortages that have hit other parts of the economy have hit health care as well, and so it's a combination of just people who are quite sick with staff who have had a really tough 18 months."

 

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