(Courtesy of St. Mary’s General Hospital) Just when you thought the threat of COVID-19 was easing you now learn of the new “twindemic”—the dual threat of a severe flu outbreak on top of the COVID-19 pandemic in the fall and winter of 2020.
Per the CDC, getting a flu vaccine is more important than ever during 2020-2021 to protect yourself and the people around you from flu, and to help reduce the strain on healthcare systems responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. “St. Mary’s General Hospital had tents erected outside the ED to treat COVID-19 patients, as did other hospitals,” said George Matyjewicz, PhD, community liaison at St. Mary’s General Hospital. “Can you imagine the overload all hospitals will experience if we have a twindemic? And with schools opening and people back to ‘normal’ activities this can be a major health problem.”
Who should get
vaccinated this season?
Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine every season with rare exceptions. Vaccination is particularly important for people who are at high risk of serious complications from influenza. Flu vaccination has important benefits—it can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations and deaths.
There are flu shots approved for use in children as young as 6 months old and flu shots approved for use in adults 65 years and older.
Flu shots also are recommended and approved for use in pregnant women and people with certain chronic health conditions.
There are many vaccine options to choose from. CDC does not recommend one flu vaccine over another.
“With halachic questions, I always advise to talk to your LOR (local Orthodox rabbi),” said Matyjewicz. “With this, you need to consult your LMD (local medical doctor).”
When should you get vaccinated?
You should get a flu vaccine before flu viruses begin spreading in your community, since it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against flu. October is always ideal, though you may be tempted to get it earlier this year because of COVID-19. However, flu vaccine is at best 40% to 60% effective, diminishes with each passing month, and flu season is often at its peak in January and February. Flu shots are usually available at doctor’s offices and pharmacies.
What else can you do?
Since we are all practicing social distancing and wearing masks, that should also help in avoiding the flu. Talk to your physician about the pneumonia vaccine also. And simple basics are important—follow a well-balanced diet—avoid sugar, refined carbs and alcohol; stay well-hydrated; get enough sleep and proper exercise (intense exercise can impair the immune response). Since we all may have depleted immune systems due to stress, poor nutrition, poor sleep and being quarantined, certain nutritional supplements may also help to defend against colds and the flu—like vitamin D and C.
Can you get the flu and COVID-19?
Yes! Tests have shown that some patients hospitalized with COVID-19 were found to carry other respiratory pathogens. If you think you are sick, ask your LMD about the new COVID-19 combination diagnostic test that can detect SARS-CoV-2 and influenza, among other respiratory organisms, to determine which infections you have.
For more information, please contact George Matyjewicz, PhD, community liaison at [email protected]
St. Mary’s General Hospital is nationally recognized, locally preferred among the top hospitals in America for health, quality and patient safety! A center of excellence for maternal-child, the hospital has over 550 physicians and 1,200 employees, with every staff member committed to providing respectful, personalized, high-quality care—to satisfy patients’ needs and exceed their expectations. St. Mary’s General is a proud member of Prime Healthcare, which has more Patient Safety Excellence Award recipients for five consecutive years (2016-2020) than any other health system in the country including a “Top 15 Healthcare System” by Truven Health Analytics. To learn more about St. Mary’s General Hospital visit https://www.smh-nj.com/ or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/StMarysGeneral.