Doctors prepare for flu season amid COVID-19

Published: Sep. 2, 2020 at 5:15 PM CDT
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MINOT N.D. - The 2020 cold and flu season will be the first of its kind, lining up with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Medical practitioners said it won’t be easy to identify one virus over the other just by symptoms and said taking preventative measures is the best way to stay healthy.

For patients this year, a cough, may not just be a cough.

Dr. Jared Eddy with National Jewish Health said this year’s cold and flu season will bring with it a new set of challenges.

“We still don’t have a lot of experience with what flu and coronavirus look like together and whether or not that will mean more severe complications for patients,” said Eddy.

With COVID, the flu, and the common cold all sharing some symptoms, medical practitioners said it won’t be possible to identify one virus over the other by symptoms alone.

But, Infectious Disease Specialist for Trinity Health Dr. Casmiar Nwaigwe said watching out for new symptoms will be a key way to know if you should get tested to confirm a positive case of COVID-19.

“One of the few symptoms that we’ve noticed that is almost unique to COVID-19 is the loss of sense of taste and smell,” said Nwaigwe.

Doctors said while rare, it is possible to become infected by more than one virus at the same time.

“There’s nothing to prevent you from getting coronavirus and a virus of the common cold or the flu together. And we really don’t know because it hasn’t happened that much because coronavirus really hit us at the end of the last flu season,” said Eddy.

While doctors still suggest following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention safety guidelines to prevent catching the cold, flu and COVID-19 they are also advocating for preventative measures such as vaccines.

“You should get your flu shot, get it early because as we know it takes about two weeks for it to become effective so once you get it, it protects you,” said Nwaigwe.

Public healthcare provider First District Health Unit is already working on making this year’s flu shot available as early as September.

First District released this year’s school flu clinics schedule, which will afford students in more than 50 schools across seven districts the ability to get their flu shot.

“We’re really pushing to get the vaccine earlier this year September, October time. Get it before Halloween, just so you have that protection before the flu season starts,” said Lacey McNichols, Immunizations Coordinator at First District Health Unit.

McNichols said the dates aren’t set in stone and are subject to change due to school schedules and needs.

Staff at Trinity Health said they are in the planning stages of expanding testing at their drive through COVID testing facility to be able to test for COVID-19 and the flu at the same time. More information will be released in the coming weeks.

You can find more information on where you can find First District’s 2020 school flu clinics tentative schedule here:

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