As the crisp air moves in and daylight gets shorter,
we will face another sign of fall: the flu. This year, the flu is likely to pose
a challenge as we’re already facing the COVID-19 pandemic and the flu has similar symptoms.
Both viruses can be spread before a person shows symptoms. People remain contagious with the flu for about a week. People with COVID can remain contagious for 10 days or longer. Both are spread from person-to-person contact and through droplets in the air.
The flu and COVID-19 have symptoms in common, such as fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, sore throat, runny nose, muscle pain, headache. COVID-19 often comes with loss of or change in senses of taste and smell. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention keeps an updated guide.
Flu symptoms appear faster--usually within 4 days of being infected. COVID-19 symptoms typically appear after 5 days, but could be anywhere from 2 to 14 days after infection.
If you’re unsure if you have COVID-19 or the flu, call your doctor or the free 24-hour NurseLine for advice on where to go for care. The number can be found on the back of your Premera member ID card.
Get your flu shot in early fall
Because it takes about 2 weeks for the body to build up
antibodies after receiving the flu shot, the CDC recommends getting vaccinated
early in the fall, before the flu season begins. Every year, millions of people get the flu, hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized, and thousands to tens of thousands of people die from flu-related causes, according to the CDC.
Reducing risk of flu could help keep emergency rooms clear for people with COVID-19.
Because there are different strains of the flu, the flu shot
is not 100 percent effective and you might still get sick. But studies show
that the flu shot can reduce severity of the flu, if you do get it. You cannot get the flu from the flu shot.
Unfortunately, the flu shot will not protect you against COVID-19.
Where to get vaccinated
You can get a flu shot at many doctor’s offices, clinics,
public health departments, and pharmacies. Due to COVID-19 limitations, make
sure to call ahead or make an appointment. The flu shot is covered with no
out-of-pocket cost to you on most health plans. Vaccine production was increased this year, so there should be enough doses for everyone who wants it.
Slow the spread
Measures that will slow the spread of COVID will also slow
the spread of influenza, so keep physically distancing, washing hands, and
wearing a mask when in public spaces.
Learn more about how to protect yourself at CDC.gov.