Op-Ed by Dr. Greg James Chief Clinical Officer, Ascension Saint Thomas:
Flu season typically begins to ramp up in October which, coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on public health, means our communities are now at an even greater risk for disease that cannot be ignored. Reducing the spread of respiratory illnesses, like flu, this fall and winter is more important than ever.
Sometimes the best defense is a good offense. To help prevent and reduce the spread of disease, Ascension Saint Thomas encourages individuals, families and communities across the nation to get their appropriate vaccinations, including their annual influenza vaccine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that up to 56 million people got sick during the 2019-2020 flu season; 740,000 people were hospitalized and up to 62,000 died. The CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine every year and, if possible, to receive the vaccination no later than the end of October. However, if one is unable to get a flu shot by then, it is still better to get vaccinated than not at all. It’s especially important for high risk populations. People 65 years and older and adults with chronic health conditions (i.e. asthma, heart disease & stroke, diabetes, chronic kidney disease) are at a high risk of developing serious complications from flu compared to young healthy adults.
This flu season, we in Middle Tennessee must stay cognizant that the simple action of getting a flu vaccine, coupled with other preventative measures that have already been recommended during the COVID pandemic – including watching your distance and avoiding close contact with people who could be sick; wearing a mask; and washing your hands often with soap and water – can help to protect yourself and others, preserve valuable healthcare resources and, most importantly, save lives.
The flu vaccine is necessary to protect our families, our communities and our nation. Influenza and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone, and testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis.
To receive a flu vaccine at an Ascension Saint Thomas site of care, please visit GetSTHealthcare.com. Call your doctor, or video chat with a doctor 24/7 through ascension.org/onlinecare.