ROCHESTER, Minn. - Health officials are now worried about a "twindemic" as we're heading into flu season. It's a combination of both COVID-19 and the flu.
Every year, there's a seasonal flu that sweeps through the nation leaving many people hospitalized and now doctors are worried about a double whammy. Every year, 5% to 20% of people get sick with the flu. In 2019, health officials reported about 60,000 deaths due to the flu and keep in mind, that wasn't during a time of COVID-19.
The President of the Minnesota Medical Association, Dr. Keith Stelter, explained the flu vaccine is anywhere from 40% to 50% effective. He said in 2017, 5.3 million illnesses and 85,000 hospitalizations were prevented because of the flu vaccine. This year, hospitals need as many rooms available for COVID-19 since there isn't a vaccine available yet. "So if we add 85,000 hospitalizations to those that we're already seeing with COVID, that would add just even more hospitalizations and overburden our health care system," explained Dr. Stelter.
It is possible to get both COVID-19 and the flu at the same time because they're two very different viruses. "Both COVID and the flu have quite similar symptoms, so trying to diagnose the two and they're treated very differently leads us to more stress on our testing systems that we can't really tell what we have," explained Dr. Stelter. Because the symptoms are so similar, the big one with COVID-19 is the loss of taste and smell. He said it's best to get tested for COVID-19 just in case. Researchers are in the process of creating a test for all the viruses at once.
Many area pharmacies already have the flu shot available and it'll last all season long, which can run through May.