While the flu vaccine will not protect you against coronavirus or Covid-19, it may help you avoid complications should you develop both infections, and it can help to lessen the strain on the health system if fewer people contract influenza in the upcoming flu season. As Covid-19 has spread across the world, parallels have been drawn to influenza, which does kill thousands of people each year. Very importantly though: influenza does have a vaccine, and the novel Covid-19 does not.
What Causes The Flu?
Influenza is a respiratory illness that, like Covid-19 can cause complications in people who have underlying health conditions. There are three types: A, B and C, with type A being the most severe form, and the type that causes major outbreaks. The influenza virus mutates and you are exposed to a new strain every season. Despite the Government’s efforts to encourage vaccination against influenza, and provisioning millions of free vaccines, Australia experienced its worst flu season on record, in 2020, with 310 000 cases. This situation is largely preventable, and as responsible citizens, we can do more to protect ourselves and those around us.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Flu?
You can expect to experience some combination of the following symptoms when you have the flu:
- Fatigue and muscle aches
- Cough and sore throat
- Runny nose, sneezing or a stuffy congested nose.
In children, the flu may also present with vomiting, nausea and abdominal pains.
Which Is More Infectious: Flu Or Covid-19?
Because Covid-19 is new and figures are changing rapidly it’s currently difficult to compare the virus with flu, in terms of contagiousness and fatality rate. What we do know is that Covid-19 is highly contagious, and it is currently estimated that an infected person could infect 2.2 people each. Of course, this figure may change as social distancing protocol becomes more commonplace. The “reproduction number” (or the rate at which infected persons can infect others) will decline as world populations are able to bring it under control.
By current data, the coronavirus appears to have a higher fatality rate than the flu, killing approximately 0.1% of infected people, with the exception of the 1918 flu epidemic, which had an extremely high fatality rate of 2%.
Coronaviruses form a family that cause a range of illnesses from common colds to more serious infections such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
What Are The Symptoms?
The World Health Organisation says that symptoms of infection include shortness of breath, problems breathing, fever and coughing. Symptoms are most likely to appear five to six days after infection.
However many infected patients have presented asymptomatically.
Because of its highly contagious nature, self-isolation and social distancing have been enforced in most countries around the world, in an effort to curb its spread.
Why It’s Important That You Take Precautions Not To Catch Flu
Coronaviruses and influenza can cause complications in people who have underlying health conditions. They can both affect people with diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and heart disease more severely. Older people are also at greater risk of fatality from both viruses.
While scientists around the world are working hard at producing vaccines and management strategies for coronaviruses, these medical breakthroughs may be some time away. What we do know is that having the flu shot can reduce your chance of developing the flu. While there is no guarantee that the vaccine will work 100% if you do develop the flu you are more likely to have a mild case.
Getting the flu compromises your immune system and weakens against fighting off other illnesses. The benefit of not having the flu is twofold: beneficial for you, and beneficial for the health system and wider society.
Who Should Have The Flu Shot?
The influenza vaccine is recommended for all persons over the age of six months. It is considered a safe way to boost your immunity, and for your community to develop immunity that protects more vulnerable groups of people, such as babies, pregnant women and people older than 65.
The Federal Government has made millions of flu vaccines available for free, to people who are considered high risk for developing influenza.
The Department of Health says that people should get vaccinated in mid-April, to give the vaccine a few weeks to take effect, and to be effective during the peak of the flu season, as it starts to lose effect after three or four months. Despite this trend, 2020 has seen a number of early influenza cases reported in Australia. An early start to the season has meant an early peak as well.
Because influenza mutates, and a different strain circulated each season, it’s vital to make sure you are vaccinated annually.
What Else Can You Do To Protect Yourself?
Social distancing, isolation on presentation of symptoms and stringent hygiene may also help to protect you against influenza this year. Government recommendations that people avoid all non-essential social gatherings, maintaining a 1.5m distance between people and avoiding physical contact as part of its efforts to manage Covid-19, but taking these precautions can protect you against influenza as well.
Do your best to stay generally healthy. Drink enough water every day and make sure you’re eating a balanced and wholesome diet that includes all the food groups. Make sure you’re getting enough exercise too – it’s a great stress reliever as well as a contributor to your overall health. Have your annual influenza vaccine, and take advantage of this time to focus on your health.
At Super Health Chatswood Medical Centre we are committed to providing holistic health services. Please contact us for your flu shot, advice on diet and exercise, or for your general healthcare needs. Please contact our office for an appointment.