PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - This year, doctors are worried about what they call a "twindemic" of two potentially deadly viruses circulating at the same time.
Every year the flu sends hundreds of thousands of people to U.S. hospitals and kills tens of thousands. This year, COVID-19 has already done that and more.
Now, as the U.S. enters flu season in the midst of a pandemic, Dr. Paul Cieslak, the Medical Director for Communicable Diseases and Immunizations at Oregon Health Authority, says getting the flu vaccine becomes critical.
"So if we have a bad influenza season hitting on top of COVID-19, we're really going to overwhelm our hospitals," Dr. Cieslak said. "So now in particular it's important to prevent the one disease that we have a vaccine to prevent right now which is influenza."
The symptoms for the flu and the coronavirus are very similar: cough, sore throat, fever, fatigue. Doctors say the only way to really know the difference is with a clinical test.
A flu shot can take up to two weeks to become effective and it does not prevent the coronavirus. But with or without a flu shot, if you begin to feel those symptoms you should contact your doctor right away to be tested.
There is proven treatment for the flu.
"That can either shorten the course of the illness and may even prevent hospitalization. But we certainly want to look for COVID-19 as well, because then you'll need to stay home for a certain period of time and we'll want to start looking for where you might have gotten the disease and track it down," said Dr. Cieslak.
All the things people have been doing to stay healthy from COVID-19 will help keep them from getting the flu, like washing your hands, keeping your distance, and wearing a mask.
As Oregonians head into the rainy season, OHA is urging people to use an umbrella. If face coverings get wet, OHA says it's less effective and more difficult to breathe.
So along with carrying a spare mask, people should also carry and use an umbrella.
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