(PHOENIX – Oct. 16, 2020) – Experts at Dignity Health in Arizona are urging members of the public to get a flu shot this year, noting it is especially important given the COVID-19 pandemic. Flu vaccines are now available in Arizona.
“In addition to keeping our communities healthy and free of the flu, we also have COVID-19 to think about,” says Omar Gonzalez, MD, Infectious Disease Consultant and Hospital Epidemiologist for Dignity Health in Arizona. “We saw a high number of COVID patients in the hospital this summer, and while our state’s numbers thankfully have been lower, we cannot lose sight of the flu season.”
The influenza virus remains one of the top ten leading causes of death each year in the United States. Vaccines help prevent the spread of disease, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu shot prevents tens of thousands of hospitalizations each year.
Similar to COVID-19, those with chronic illnesses are at greater risk of serious complications such as pneumonia which can often lead to hospitalization. While the flu vaccine is especially important for high-risk populations, everyone can benefit from the flu vaccine, regardless of how healthy they are.
“We are very concerned and want to do our best to prevent people from contracting the flu and COVID-19 during the fall and winter when the flu is most prominent,” Dr. Gonzalez further explains. “We don’t yet have a vaccine for COVID-19, but we have been vaccinating against influenza for nearly a century. Aside from the basic prevention methods for COVID-19, such as wearing a mask and social distancing, the best we can do for each other is to get a flu shot and get it early in the season.”
The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for anyone older than six months of age, including pregnant women. It takes approximately two weeks for a flu vaccine to become effective as antibodies develop that protect against influenza virus infection. Flu vaccines will not protect against flu-like illnesses caused by non-influenza viruses such as COVID-19.
As with any highly-contagious respiratory illness, it is important to avoid close contact with those who are sick and stay home if you are sick; wear a mask when in public; wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds and carry hand sanitizer with you to use frequently when soap and water is unavailable. It’s also recommended to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; disinfect frequently touched surfaces often; ensure you are maintaining a physical distance of at least six feet whenever possible; and use your elbow to cover coughs and sneezes.
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