With COVID-19 still rising, health officials urge people not to wait on their flu vaccine

It’s possible to get both COVID-19 and the flu at the same time, says the Centers for Disease Control

VANCOUVER — The rate of new COVID-19 cases in Clark County has continued to accelerate in recent weeks, with 250 cases in the past seven days. That represents a 12-percent increase over the week before, and a rise of more than 40 percent since mid September.

This week also saw the most new deaths since the early days of the pandemic, with five fatalities added to the total, bringing the count to 60 in Clark County.

Flu shot time. Photo by RF._.studio from Pexels
Flu shot time. Photo by RF._.studio from Pexels

On its Facebook page, Clark County Public Health noted that the rate of new cases, which topped 86 per 100,000 residents for the period of Sept. 14-28, is the highest since mid-August. The county reached 99.7 cases per 100,00 residents in July, before dropping into the 60s for much of September.

The recent surge in COVID-19 activity is doubly concerning as we move into October, when flu season traditionally starts.

Clark County Public Health is urging people not to delay getting a flu shot this year, in an effort to avoid a double-whammy of COVID-19 and the common flu.

“Flu shots are the best way to prevent influenza illness and hospitalizations,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County health officer and Public Health director. “By getting a flu shot, we will all do our part to ensure our health care system isn’t overburdened while influenza and COVID-19 are circulating in our community.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, it is possible to be infected with both influenza and the novel coronavirus at the same time, raising concerns that the addition of flu season could increase the lethality of COVID-19.

“Having fluid circulate in the community at the same time as COVID-19 puts us really at risk,” Melnick added, “for a variety of reasons. So I would plead with folks to get the flu shot.”

Flu can occur in any month, but transmission primarily occurs October through May.

“It’s hard for doctors to distinguish between flu and COVID-19,” said Melnick. “The more we can reduce flu, the fewer times physicians will have to make that distinction.”

It can take up to two weeks for protection from the flu shot to build up, Public Health noted, adding that getting immunized now ensures you’re protected once flu activity intensifies, and you’ll remain protected throughout flu season.

While most people with the flu do not need to seek medical care, flu symptoms can be severe and typically include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches, body aches, chills and fatigue. Those who have flu symptoms and are in a high-risk group, or who are worried about their illness, should contact their health care provider.

Flu vaccine is widely available in Clark County. To get vaccinated, call your healthcare provider or pharmacy. You can also find locations offering flu vaccines at www.vaccinefinder.org.

In addition to immunization, everyday practices can reduce the chance of catching or spreading influenza. These practices can also help slow the spread of COVID-19.

  • Stay home when sick and limit contact with others.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Cough or sneeze into your arm or cover your nose and mouth with a tissue. Throw away the tissue and wash your hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer is an alternative when soap and water aren’t available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Wear a cloth face covering when around people you don’t live with.

For information on the similarities and differences between flu and COVID-19, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.