SEATTLE — While a flu vaccine won't stop you from getting coronavirus, Seattle and King County public health officer Jeff Duchin said it's more important to get your flu shot this year.
"Flu vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of getting the flu by about half, and importantly also reduces the risk for severe illness and hospitalization for those who do get the flu. That will both reduce your risk for becoming ill and for needing medical attention. It also helps ensure hospitals and medical resources are available for COVID-19 patients and others who need them," Duchin said.
One of the biggest concerns this flu season is confusing it with coronavirus, since they have similar symptoms.
Duchin said with so many shared symptoms, it will be difficult to distinguish between the two and a determination should be made by testing. Duchin recommends that anyone with symptoms (fever, shortness of breath, muscle aches, fatigue) should self-isolate for at least 10 days.
Getting vaccinated can help prevent influenza that might be confused with COVID-19, Duchin said.
"We also don’t know what the combination of COVID-19 and influenza will mean for people who get infected at the same time or close together, but there is concern that the combination could lead to serious illnesses," Duchin said.
In terms of COVID-19 transmission rates, Washington state is doing better than a lot of other states, according to experts from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).
Dr. Ali Mokdad of the IHME said many counties, including King County have had a steady, but small decrease in cases over the last month or so.
The virus thrives during colder months, Mokdad said, and social distancing will become harder due to poor weather.
“We need to keep vigilant because we don’t want to start our fall and winter from a higher number. We want to bring our numbers down, so as seasonality works against us we have much more comfortable position to start from rather than start from a higher level,” he said.
“We estimate that between now and January 1st in Washington state about 3,000 deaths, cumulative deaths. If all of us — 95% of us — wear a mask when we go outside that number could go down to about 2,400. So, we’re talking about 600 lives saved between now and January 1st," Mokdad said.
The flu vaccine does not prevent coronavirus.
You can use VaccineFinder.org to find where flu vaccines are available near you. Duchin recommends that you call ahead to make sure they have it in stock.