Atlanta, Oct 13, 2020 – The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) has a message for Georgians: Everyone needs a flu shot. Yes, you! That’s the focus of a new campaign urging all Georgians over the age of six months to get a flu shot this year.
“Now more than ever, influenza vaccination is critical not only to protect people from getting sick, but to reduce the burden on our healthcare system already caring for COVID-19 patients,” said Kathleen E. Toomey, M.D., M.P.H, DPH commissioner. “Even if the vaaccine doesn’t prevent illness from flu completely, it can help reduce the severity and risk of serious complications – and keep people out of the hospital during this COVID-19 pandemic.”
Influenza and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. Flu and COVID-19 share many characteristics, including:
Fever or feeling feverish/chills
Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Runny or stuffy nose
Muscle pain or body aches and headaches
Vomiting and diarrhea, more common in children than adults
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.
Both the flu and COVID-19 spread in similar ways. Droplets or smaller virus particles from a sick person can transmit the virus to other people nearby. The smallest particles may linger in the air, and another person can inhale them and become infected.
An important difference between flu and COVID-19 is there is a vaccine available to everyone to protect against flu. Every individual over the age of six months should get a flu vaccine – not just for their own protection, but to protect others around them who may be more vulnerable to the flu and its complications. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend getting an annual flu shot by the end of October. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against flu to develop in the body.
There are tried and true measures to help protect against the flu or any respiratory illness, including COVID-19:
· If you have symptoms, stay home from school or work.
· Practice social distancing by keeping 6 feet between you and others.
· Wearing a mask or face covering in public.
· Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Alcohol based hand sanitizers (at least 60% alcohol) are the next best thing if there is no access to soap and water.
Cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing to help prevent the spread of viruses. Use a tissue or cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow or arm.
Avoid touching your face as germs can get into the body through mucus membranes of the nose, mouth and eyes.
Remember, everything you do to help prevent flu will also help prevent COVID-19.
If you do get sick and think you may have the flu, contact your healthcare provider right away. There are medications that can be used to treat flu but they are most effective when taken within 48 hours of the onset of flu symptoms.
Flu vaccine is widely available at public health departments, doctors’ offices, grocery stores, neighborhood clinics and pharmacies. To find a location near you click on https://vaccinefinder.org/find-vaccine.
For more information about flu and how to prevent it, log on to dph.ga.gov/flu or flu.gov.