Flu Shot More Important Than Ever with Pandemic Ongoing
As COVID-19 continues to circulate widely in Texas, the upcoming flu season has taken on a greater sense of urgency among health care workers. Governor Greg Abbott held a press conference Thursday at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas to discuss how the flu may worsen the ongoing pandemic.
“With a flu season that could be prolific, if that leads to greater hospitalizations coupled with the hospitalizations that we’re seeing for COVID-19, you can easily see how hospitals in this region, as well as across Texas, will be completely overrun,” said Abbott.
Thankfully, COVID-19 hospitalizations among children have remained low, but that doesn’t mean parents should let their guard down. Nicholas Rister, M.D., pediatric infectious diseases physician at Cook Children’s, says now is a good time to set a reminder to get the entire family vaccinated against the flu as soon as immunizations become available, likely mid-September.
“It is a little more concerning than your average flu season because COVID-19 is still very prevalent in our area,” Dr. Rister said. “Both of these viruses trigger respiratory illnesses and the symptoms are very similar so it’s going to be difficult to tell the two apart without testing.”
To add insult to injury, it is possible to get both COVID-19 and the flu at the same time. Dr. Rister says if that happens, it would likely make symptoms worse.
“By in large, children have luckily been spared from the most severe effects of COVID-19,” Dr. Rister explained. “Unfortunately, the same does not hold true for the flu. Kids can become very ill from the flu and end up in the hospital. That’s the last thing we want to happen.”
In addition to pushing Texans to get their flu shot, Governor Abbott said COVID-19 cases are decreasing in Dallas/Fort Worth. But he warned the illness is still spreading heavily among family and friend gatherings.
"There may be this sense that if you're gathering with family, you're not really transmitting COVID-19, but that has been disproven," Abbott said. "Anybody anywhere has both the ability to spread or contract COVID-19."
So while we wait for vaccines to arrive for both viruses, these are steps you can take to protect you and your family:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Wear a mask.
- Avoid large gatherings.
- Keep social distance.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe
- Before disinfecting surfaces, clean with soap and water to remove dirt and other residue
- Follow by using a household spray or wipe disinfectant that is labeled "Kills 99.9% of viruses and bacteria."
- Wipe the surface down and allow 5 minutes to dry before using the surface.
- The CDC offers alternatives to commercial disinfecting solutions on their website, as well as tips for cleaning your home.
Get to know Nicholas Rister, M.D.
Nicholas Rister, M.D. is a board certified infectious diseases physician at Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas. He treats the following conditions: central nervous system infections/meningitis/encephalitis, chronic and recurring infections, congenital infections, fevers of unknown origin, hepatitis (including hepatitis B and C), herpes simplex virus, immune deficiency, Kawasaki disease, life-threatening infections, lymphadenitis, Meningococcal disease, osteomyelitis and septic arthritis, pneumonia, tuberculosis, travel-related illness, viral infections (including herpes and cytomegalovirus).
New and existing patients looking to schedule an appointment or consultation with Dr. Rister can call 682-885-1485.