The Delta variant already has some Colorado hospitals overwhelmed. The end of summer marks the start of another virus’ season – influenza. Most flu activity begins in October, but the surge of COVID-19 cases has doctors bracing for a twindemic.
“If the flu takes off and we get to our normal number of flu admissions this year, we definitely have concerns about bed availability,” said Dr. Carrie Horn, Chief Medical Officer at National Jewish Health.
Horn didn’t treat many flu patients last year. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, fewer than 3,000 Coloradans were admitted to hospitals during the 2019-2020 flu season.
That is a decrease of more than 99%.
Horn says the health habits we’ve formed during the pandemic, like distancing and mask wearing, prevented people from falling sick to other illnesses.
“It was actually really gratifying to say we can make a difference in disease progression,” said Horn. “Let’s keep that going because it works for other things like RSV or some of our other cold viruses. Let’s keep people healthy and out of the hospital.”
Many people will be due to get their COVID-19 booster shot as early as October. Certain groups, like the immunocompromised, already qualify for a third dose.
The CDC previously said providers should space out the COVID-19 shot and other immunizations.
That guidance has since changed.
“There is no scientific evidence to say it is not a good idea to get both of them together. From a convenience standpoint, it really makes a lot of sense to get them together so you’re covered for the rest of the season,” said Dr. Scott Joy, Chief Medical Officer of HealthONE for the HealthONE Physician Services Group.
Flu and coronavirus share similar symptoms including fever, chills, cough, fatigue and sore throat. If someone is unsure if they have the flu or COVID, they should get tested. Joy says there are other symptoms that stand out.
“Some patients who have tested positive for COVID have more GI symptoms, some nausea, some vomiting and diarrhea. That’s a little bit different than what we’ve seen earlier in the pandemic,” said Joy.