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Flu season may bring COVID concerns

With a slight increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Alabama, many people are worried about what the virus could bring with the beginning of flu season.

Jason Daniel, director of public affairs and marketing for the Escambia County Healthcare Authority, said healthcare experts had predicted an increase in positive cases this fall.

“We have seen a slight increase in positive test results across the state,” Daniel said. “We have had a slight increase in the number of positive results at D.W. McMillan, but have not seen an increase, percentage wise, in Atmore.”

Daniel said that the number of people testing positive for the virus in Escambia County has gone down in recent weeks.

“I think a lot of this has run its coarse,” Daniel said. “But, it’s still out there. The big scare of it is pretty much over. It’s been my view that people who have been worried about it have already gone to the doctor. For those who weren’t so worried, they haven’t been tested.”

Although flu season is just kicking off, Daniel said there may be more people who get tested for the COVID-19 in addition to being tested for flu.
“There are many similarities between symptoms of COVID and symptoms of flu,” Daniel said. “There may be some people who go to the doctor because they believe they have the flu and find out they may have COVID-19. The information given early on in this pandemic said that this would be a seasonal virus. But we are learning so much, the answers to many questions about the virus are changing constantly.”

Daniel did say that vaccines against the COVID-19 virus will begin this fall.

“We expect that vaccines will be given through the fall and into next year,” Daniel said. “By the summer of 2021, the vaccinations should be complete. I hope by then, this will all be behind us.”

With the influx of cold and flu season thrust on top of the current pandemic, Daniel said healthcare systems across the country will, no doubt, have a tough season.

“This is going to be a difficult season for healthcare,” Daniel said. “It will take some extra effort and time to test for flu and also test for COVID-19.”

Daniel did say that it is recommend everyone  wear a mask, and wear it correctly, when in public  and to maintain social distancing when possible.

The World Health Organization says that both  COVID-19 and influenza viruses both cause respiratory disease, which presents as a wide range of illness from asymptomatic or mild through to severe disease and death. Both viruses are transmitted by contact, droplets and fomites. As a result, the same public health measures, such as hand hygiene and good respiratory etiquette (coughing into your elbow or into a tissue and immediately disposing of the tissue), are important actions all can take to prevent infection.

It is recommended, more in 2020 than in years past, that everyone who can should be vaccinated against the flu. Although WHO says the flu vaccine is no deterrent for COVID, preventing any illness is good.