PROVIDENCE, RI — Flu season’s starting with the COVID-19 pandemic still rolling, so health care workers and doctors hope comprehensive flu shots will limit the double threat.
Flu vaccine will lessen the chances that someone will have to deal with the serious health consequences of the flu, and it will lessen the chances that Rhode Island’s healthcare system will be overburdened with both flu and COVID-19 patients in the coming months, the Rhode Island Department of Health noted in a statement about its flu vaccination campaign to get 90 percent of Rhode Islanders vaccinated against the flu.
“With the current COVID-19 pandemic, getting a flu vaccine is more important than ever this year – to protect ourselves, our families and our communities,” said Executive Office of Health & Human Services Secretary Womazetta Jones. “If we all do our part to get vaccinated for the flu, we can help save lives and reduce the burden on our healthcare system – where staff are working tirelessly to respond to COVID-19.”
Most years, Rhode Island is one of the best vaccinated states in the country. During the 2018-2019 flu season, 60% of Rhode Islanders were vaccinated against the flu: 78% of children and 56% of adults. (A statewide vaccination rate is not yet complete for the 2019-2020 season.)
During the 2018-2019 flu season, the flu resulted in 1,032 hospitalizations and there were 39 flu-associated deaths. During the 2019-2020 flu season, when strict community mitigation measures were in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and when patterns of healthcare utilization were atypical, Rhode Island saw 950 hospitalizations and 20 flu-associated deaths. Many symptoms of the flu mirror symptoms of COVID-19. Both viruses can cause fever, cough, shortness of breath, nasal congestion, muscle aches, and fatigue.
Shots against flu for who?
While flu shots are important for everyone older than six months of age, they are especially important for certain people, including older adults, younger children, healthcare workers, pregnant women, and people with chronic medical conditions. Examples of chronic medical conditions include diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and asthma.
Flu shot symptoms aren’t flu. They’re proof of protection
After getting a flu shot, some people experience a slight ache or a low-grade fever. This means that the body is developing an immune response to the flu virus. These mild side effects are much less significant than the actual flu, which causes most people to stay in bed for a week. You cannot get the flu from the flu shot.
Flu season health tips
In addition to getting vaccinated against the flu, Rhode Islanders can take other steps to stay healthy and safe this flu season.
Practice the three Ws:
- Wear your mask. A mask helps prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses like the flu and COVID-19.
- Wash your hands. Use warm water and soap. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand gel.
- Watch your distance. Whenever possible, stay six feet away from other people who are not your household contacts.
Additional steps that people can take:
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow. Flu is spread through coughing or sneezing on other people or into your hands. Cover your coughs and sneezes to prevent others from getting sick.
- Disinfect high-touch surfaces regularly, such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious foods.