Fever, cough, fatigue, and body aches are reported symptoms of COVID-19, the infection caused by coronavirus. But these symptoms also are hallmarks of seasonal influenza. Symptom similarities aside, coronavirus and influenza are definitely not the same. Coronavirus is proving to be more contagious than the flu is—hence the increasing restrictions on social contact.
One important commonality between these two viruses? Seniors are at increased risk for serious complications, including an increased risk for death.
While our health care providers and government officials continue to uncover how best to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and treat those who are infected, our health care system is fully equipped to treat and prevent the flu.
So far this flu season, at least 36 million Americans have been diagnosed with the flu, and 22,000 people—including 144 children—have died.
This week marks week 12 of the 2019-2020 flu season, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that flu activity “remains high” and is “expected to continue for weeks.”
Getting a flu vaccine is the first step to preventing influenza. The CDC recommends everyone ages 6 months and older get vaccinated every season.
If you haven’t gotten your flu vaccine yet, this online vaccine finder can point you in the right direction.
What are common flu symptoms?
- Fever, feeling feverish (though some people who get the flu will not have a fever)
- Body/muscle aches
- Feeling tired, fatigue
- Cough, chest discomfort
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
Usually, signs and symptoms of the flu happen suddenly—unlike cold symptoms, which typically occur more gradually.
Think you might have the flu? Contact your doctor immediately. Flu screening tests are widely available, and your best window of opportunity for treatment is within the first 2 days after you feel those initial symptoms.
Not everyone will need treatment, though. It all depends on your symptoms and your risk for serious complications.
As with every flu season, seniors, pregnant women, people with certain health conditions, and young children tend to be more susceptible to the flu and at risk for more severe symptoms and complications.
What increases your flu risk?
- Age 65 years and older
- Age younger than 2 years
- Lung disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cystic fibrosis
- Heart disease
- Living in a nursing home or other long-term facility
Check the CDC for a complete list of flu risk factors.
If you are sick, the CDC advises that you stay home and rest. Avoid close contact with people who live with you, and drink plenty of water and other clear liquids.
If you are caring for someone with the flu, the CDC recommends the following:
- Avoid being face to face with the sick person.
- Spend the least amount of time possible in close contact with the sick person.
- Wash your hands often, the right way, and for at least 20 seconds.
- Make sure to wash your hands after touching the sick person and after handling their tissues or laundry.
- If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
As we all watch the COVID-19 pandemic play out, remember that the flu is out there, too.
The WHO’s “Do the Five” to help stop coronavirus certainly applies to flu prevention, too. Let’s all get on board:
- HANDS: Wash them often
- ELBOW: Cough into it
- FACE: Don’t touch it
- FEET: Stay more than 3-feet apart
- FEEL sick? Stay home
Are you washing your hands the right way?
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