With the onset of flu season (is last year’s flu season really over?) and the coronavirus continuing to spread here in the US and around the world, doctors at Baptist Health are urging patients to get their vaccinations soon. The flu shot is now available at all Baptist Health Urgent Care and Urgent Care Express locations, which are open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
To celebrate National Flu Preparedness Day (September 21), Resources The editors spoke with Ladan Pourmasiha, DO, family medicine physician with Baptist Health and medical director of Broward County Health System’s Urgent Care Centers, and Cory Frederick, PharmD, clinical coordinator of infectious diseases in ambulatory care with Baptist Health. They offered their thoughts on the upcoming flu season and why it’s a good idea to get a flu shot — especially for people 65 and older and some other at-risk groups.
the supplier: Dr. Purmaseha, when does flu season begin here in South Florida usually?
Dr.. Burmasiha: Flu season varies from year to year in terms of when it peaks, especially here in Florida, where we don’t have many dramatic seasonal changes in our weather. We’ve seen quite a bit of activity over the past four to five weeks. Flu season in Florida usually lasts from November to April, but often peaks in January and February.
the supplier: Looks like last year’s flu season wasn’t really over – why?
Dr.. Burmasiha: The last flu season lasted longer than expected, possibly due to the timing of last year’s COVID-Omicron spike and the low number of individuals vaccinated against the flu. Also, due to social distancing and hiding during the pandemic, flu cases have been essentially non-existent for the past two years. This prevented us from having that natural immunity we normally expect, so the last flu season lasted longer than usual. There have been highs all summer but they seem to be dwindling now – just in time for the next.
the supplier: Dr. Anthony Fauci says the experience of pioneering countries such as Australia and New Zealand heralds an early onset of the flu season and it could be bad. What’s your opinion?
Dr.. Burmasiha: I think he may be right. We are now dealing with multiple highly contagious influenza viruses. Therefore, it is possible that you will have a virus superimposed during this upcoming season. But, as Dr. Frederick will tell you, the flu vaccine now being distributed in the United States has proven effective against the predominant flu strain that affects those countries, and the most important thing you can do is make sure you receive a full vaccination against both COVID and influenza, to reduce the risk of complications If you get sick.
the supplier: Dr. Frederick, are there any risks or side effects for people receiving the flu vaccine?
Dr. Frederick: There is a small chance that the flu vaccine could be associated with Guillain-Barré syndrome – generally no more than one or two cases per million people vaccinated. This is much lower than the risk of developing serious complications from the flu, which can be easily prevented with the flu vaccine. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that “some vaccines are not recommended in certain situations and for people of certain ages or health conditions, and some people should not receive flu vaccines at all (although this is uncommon).” The CDC adds that, “Side effects of the flu vaccine are generally mild and go away on their own within a few days. Some side effects that may occur from the flu vaccine include soreness, redness, and/or swelling at the injection site, headache (low grade), fever, nausea, muscle aches, and fatigue.”
the supplier: When do you advise people to get the flu vaccine?
Dr. Frederick: With the flu vaccine, it’s best to get vaccinated Before The flu is starting to spread in your community, so we recommend getting everyone vaccinated by the end of October. However, adults and especially the elderly want to be careful not to get the flu shot very Early, such as in July or August, because the protection you provide may decline over time and will not be effective when the flu season gets tough this winter.
the supplier: Who is most likely to get seriously ill or die from the flu, and why?
Dr.. Burmasiha: Typically, regardless of the virus we discuss, the people most at risk are individuals 65 years of age and older; living in a nursing home; immunocompromised; pregnant; have comorbidities such as diabetes or other chronic diseases; or who have children age 5 or younger (especially those age 2 or younger).
the supplier: For someone age 65 or older, what are the risks Not Get a flu shot?
Dr.. Burmasiha: The flu is more dangerous for older people for several reasons. One reason is that the immune system, which helps your body fight infection, weakens as you age. For example, because your body is busy fighting the flu, you may catch a secondary infection such as pneumonia, sinusitis, or an ear infection. The second reason is that older adults are also more likely to have other health conditions such as diabetes that increase their risk of flu complications. Therefore, it is always in the best interest of older adults to receive a flu shot to reduce the risk of serious complications.
the supplier: Other than older adults, is there anyone else who should get the flu shot?
Dr. Frederick: This season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends “an annual influenza vaccination for everyone 6 months of age or older using any licensed age-appropriate influenza vaccine (IIV4, RIV4, or LAIV4) with no preference for one vaccine over another.” Some residents are more likely to develop serious complications from the flu. Aside from the elderly, we recommend pregnant women and young children to get the flu shot. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Vaccinating pregnant women helps protect them from influenza and hospitalization, and has also been shown to help protect the baby from influenza infection for several months after birth, before the baby is vaccinated.” Also, the CDC cites a 2017 study that showed that a flu shot can save children’s lives.
the supplier: Given the overlap of symptoms between influenza and COVID-19, can you remind readers how they can tell one from the other?
Dr.. Burmasiha: One of the key things we need to understand is that everyone is different, and their reactions to these viruses may also differ. Both COVID-19 and influenza can have varying degrees of symptoms, ranging from no symptoms at all (no symptoms) to severe symptoms. Common symptoms that COVID-19 and the flu share include fever. Cough; Shortness of breath; fatigue; Sore throat; Runny nose; Muscle aches or body aches. Headache; vomiting; and diarrhea. Changes or loss of taste or smell have been observed with COVID-19, but not all patients experience this.
the supplier: ‘Florona’ made the news last year – is that something we should be worried about this year?
Dr.. Burmasiha: What we’ve seen recently in our urgent care centers is a decrease in the number of flu cases and an increase in patients with milder symptoms of COVID, ranging from a runny nose, sore throat, and upper respiratory problems. But, yeah, we’re going to start seeing double infections as the winter months go in.
the supplier: If someone wanted to get vaccinated against both the flu and COVID this fall, could they get both at the same time or should they be stunned?
Dr.. Burmasiha: Yes, they can have both at the same time. Initially, the CDC recommended that people wait 14 days after getting a COVID vaccine to get any other vaccine. However, after doing a lot of research, they found it safe to co-administer the flu and COVID vaccine at the same time. Experience with other vaccines has shown that the way our bodies develop protection, known as the immune response, and the potential side effects after vaccination are generally the same when given alone or with other vaccines.
the supplier: Are flu and COVID vaccines available through Baptist Health?
Dr.. Burmasiha: Baptist Health Urgent Care and Urgent Care Express offer influenza vaccine to children 9 years and older, adults and elderly patients. Baptist Health does not currently provide a Covid-19 vaccine to the community.
the supplier: Is there anything else you feel readers should know about the flu vaccine?
Dr.. Burmasiha: As medical professionals and experts, we have always advised patients to get a flu shot. Now more than ever, because the flu shot and the COVID vaccines are readily available, we’re asking people to get both. Not only will this help reduce the risk of complications from co-infection, but it will also reduce the spread of these viruses in the community and the burden they place on the health care system, which has been overwhelmed by the epidemic.
the supplier: When should someone seek treatment at Baptist Health Urgent Care or Urgent Care Express for influenza or COVID?
Dr.. Burmasiha: This is a difficult question and there is no right or wrong answer. As clinicians, we generally want to educate our patients and their families about allowing the body to help eradicate disease, and not to rush out immediately if their child appears ill. But given the recent spike in influenza and the ongoing COVID pandemic, things are changing quite a bit. For best results, we usually like to evaluate influenza patients and begin treatment within the first 48 hours of onset of symptoms. Therefore, we recommend seeking treatment as soon as symptoms start – especially if you have a high fever, body aches and headaches. That way, if it’s the flu, we won’t miss that treatment period. And if it’s coronavirus or something else, we can treat it quickly and appropriately.
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