With flu season in the United States fast approaching, some experts have coined the term “twindemic” to describe a time when both the flu and COVID-19 sweep the country simultaneously (via ABC). Since even a normal flu season strains our healthcare system, a twindemic would put even more pressure on doctors, hospitals, and other resources (via PopSugar).
It might also be difficult for doctors to quickly figure out which virus a patient has, since symptoms for both viruses often overlap, including fever, chills, and difficulty breathing. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that at least one COVID-19 patient also tested positive for the flu. While it’s possible for a patient to suffer from both diseases, doctors aren’t sure yet how coinfection will affect patients, or whether one virus will make a patient more susceptible to the other. Since older patients are more susceptible to both viruses, doctors recommend special caution for seniors.
Experts say get your flu shot in September or October
One of the biggest things you can do to keep yourself safe is getting a flu shot. While a COVID-19 vaccine is not yet available, flu shots are effective in reducing the number of flu cases, as well as their severity. “When the flu vaccine becomes available, make sure you get vaccinated,” Anthony Fauci told Newsweek. “You could at least blunt the effect of one of those two potential respiratory infections.” Some experts suggest getting the flu shot in October to ensure it lasts for the entire flu season. However, if you miss the October window, the CDC says that getting the vaccine can still be helpful until as late as January.
The other important prevention tactic is to continue social distancing. Part of why the flu spreads in the winter is that cold weather forces people inside at closer quarters. Fortunately, in Australia, experts have seen that observing social distancing measures can keep patients safer from both the flu and COVID-19. So keep wearing a mask, washing your hands, and continue to practice social distancing.