Sangamon County health officials are urging people to get a flu shot, as they continue to battle the spread of COVID-19.
Dr. Vidya Sundareshan, co-chief of infectious disease at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and adviser to the Sangamon County Department of Public Health, said while they’re expecting a mild flu season, the elderly, pregnant women and young children are more at risk for getting seriously ill.
“It’s really important to make sure you have a fair number of people in the community that are vaccinated. The more people who are able to be vaccinated, the milder the flu season is,” she said at a news conference Monday.
Steps to prevent the spread of the flu are similar to those that prevent the spread of COVID-19 – washing hands, wearing a mask and maintaining social distance.
Flu shots are available at the Sangamon County Department of Public Health office on South Grand Avenue, Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. They are also offered at many doctor’s offices and commercial pharmacies, the health officials said. More information is on the county health department’s website.
“As we roll into flu season, a lot of our resources might be tied up in influenza, making it more challenging to keep up with the increase of COVID-19 cases,” said Dr. Lyndsey Heise, infectious disease specialist at Springfield Clinic. She called the recent uptick in cases statewide “alarming” and worried it might get worse over the holiday season.
COVID-19 and the flu share many symptoms - including fever, chills and fatigue, Heise explained. But treatments for the illnesses are very different, so people who get sick during the upcoming flu season may need to get tested for both.
Dr. Raj Govindaiah – chief medical officer at Memorial Health System – said the system has an adequate supply of COVID-19 tests.
“The real challenge is if everyone gets sick, and then they need a flu test and Covid test, we’re actually going to run out of other things – like the swabs that we swab the nose with,” he said.
To avoid a swab or other supply shortage, Govindaiah said people should get vaccinated for the flu so fewer get sick overall this winter.