CLEVELAND — We're seven months into this pandemic and now we're bracing for an old familiar enemy to come back to town, influenza.
Flu has become a catch phrase for pretty much every nasty respiratory virus that we deal with each winter, but influenza is specific and it's deadly which is why there's a vaccine.
"People seem to forget that influenza kills up to 62,000 people every year, hundreds of thousands are hospitalized and millions get it, it's not a trivial disease," says Cleveland Clinic infectious disease expert Dr. Susan Rehm.
What's worse, she says, is that it's possible to get both COVID and influenza at the same time, but separately they're hard to tell apart.
"The symptoms of influenza and COVID overlap so we won't be able to know who has what when they come into the hospital," Dr. Rehm says.
The COVID vaccine isn't yet available, but flu shots are and it's the easiest thing you can do to protect yourself from a very common ailment this winter.
"The flu shot won't protect you from COVID, but I would get vaccinated now because it will take your body two to four weeks to build antibodies to fight off the flu," Dr. Rehm said.
Experts encourage people to get their flu shot before Halloween because the flu is predictably unpredictable. We don't know when flu season will start, how bad it will be or how effective the vaccine. But it's one option we do have to prevent at least one type of respiratory illness. That coupled with the current COVID guidelines, might help make flu season pretty mild.
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