Don’t underestimate upcoming flu season! COVID adds extra urgency to getting flu shot

Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 9:59 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Don’t let last winter give you a false sense of security. Health experts say it is vital to get your flu shot this season.

“We’re thinking we’re actually going to have an influenza season this year. Last year, we didn’t have one at all,” said Dr. Korri Phillips with Cotton O’Neil Express Care.

Dr. Phillips says the things that cause the flu to spread are the things COVID kept us from doing last year. Now, they’re back!

“One is the sheer number of people that are not wearing masks - we’re able to spread things a lot easier that way, and then kids having kids in school in person this year is different from last year. There’s hardly anybody working from home anymore,” she said. “Just those group things where we get together with everybody, we are able to spread things through the air much easier, we touch things with our hands.”

Your best shot at protection is an influenza vaccine.

“It doesn’t prevent us completely from getting influenza, but it does keep us from getting as sick from influenza,” Dr. Phillips said.

Preventing severe sickness is especially important as hospitals continue to deal with a rise in COVID and other serious illnesses.

“We have no beds, so we can’t handle the load of COVID as well as influenza hospitalizations,” Dr. Phillips said.

Getting vaccinated against COVID can help with that, as well. Dr. Phillips says you can get both shots at the same time, although if it’s your second COVID vaccine dose, be sure the appropriate amount of time has passed since the first dose.

Symptoms for both viruses are similar, although loss of taste and smell is specific to COVID. Dr. Phillips says there’s often another key difference in how quickly the symptoms hit you.

“With influenza, it definitely has an acute onset, meaning it comes on very quickly with the fever, chills, deep cough,” she said. “With COVID, the cough seems to develop over a period of time.”

Dr. Phillips says health care professionals will assess symptoms in deciding whether to test for COVID or influenza first. Stormont Vail’s ER even has a test that does both at the same time, but Dr. Phillips cautions the ER should not be your first stop.

“We need to save the ER for the emergency patients -- those who have severe shortness of breath, cough they can’t control, fever they can’t control, or who have significant medical issues already,” Dr. Phillips said.

Instead, if you’re feeling symptoms and think you need to see a doctor, call your provider for direction on where to go. Meantime, keep doing all those things you heard before about influenza - and doubled-down on during COVID.

“Wash your hands, stay away from big crowds, wear your masks, eat healthy,” Dr. Phillips reminds you.

Stormont Vail Drive-Thru Flu Shot Clinics

For adult Cotton O’Neil patients

9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Sept. 30th, Oct. 7th and 14th

Stormont’s Surgery Parking Garage, SW 10th/Garfield

NOTE: Drive-thru COVID testing will be suspended during flu shot clinic hours; no first-time flu shot recipients

Pediatric patients and Families – Pediatrics on Gage

1:30 to 6 p.m.

Oct. 21 & 28

NOTE: Age 7 months and older, to include VFC, no first flu shots

Drive-thru clinics are for flu shots only. People also needing a COVID vaccine may go to Stormont’s retail pharmacy, SW 10th & Plass. Non-Cotton O’Neil patients also may get vaccinated at the pharmacy. Call (785) 235-8796 to schedule an appointment.

Non-Cotton O’Neil patients interested in influenza vaccine should contact their provider’s office, or a local pharmacy.

Important Phone Numbers

Stormont’s flu hotline: 785-354-6789

Call-before-you-go for COVID testing: 785-354-6000

To schedule a COVID-19 vaccine: 785-270-4786

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