Fall in New England is a time to pick apples, carve pumpkins and navigate corn mazes, but it also a time to prepare for the upcoming flu season. And if it’s anything like the 2019-2020 flu season, it could be a particularly bad one and time to get your flu shot.

In February, Massachusetts broke a 10-year high for flu activity set during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. Nationwide, the CDC estimates 410,000 Americans were hospitalized from the flu in 2020. With COVID-19 still spreading unchecked in many parts of the country, health officials are bracing for what could be a difficult stretch ahead.

‘Twin-demic of Coronavirus”.

As the annual flu season approaches, our already taxed health care system is confronted with a potential double whammy. If flu and COVID-19 are both in the mix, it may be hard to tell the difference. So, health experts are recommending testing for both at the same time.

COVID-19 and influenza are both respiratory viruses. Many of the initial symptoms – cough, runny nose, fever, sore throat, fatigue – are similar. That can confuse patients. Making matters worse, some studies show it is possible to have COVID-19 and the flu together at the same time – a scenario health officials are hoping to prevent.

That’s why you’re hearing so many pleas to ‘get your flu shot’. The flu vaccine will not prevent COVID-19, but it can reduce the risk of severe influenza illness and prevent a dual outbreak, preserving critical hospital resources.

Prevention is the Best Medicine

The best thing you can do to protect yourself, your family and your friends and neighbors during this unusual flu season is by getting a flu shot.  The best time to get vaccinated is in early fall, before influenza begins spreading in your community. The CDC recommends getting the flu shot by the end of October, when flu cases typically begin to rise.

The flu vaccine is recommended for all people six months and older. For the first time, it will be required for all children who are attending Massachusetts childcare, pre-school, kindergarten, and K-12, as well as all students attending Massachusetts colleges and universities. Students are expected to  get vaccinated by December 31.

On top of getting the flu shot, you can help slow the spread of both viruses by keeping up all the habits we’ve learned to protect ourselves from COVID-19 – like washing your hands, social distancing and wearing masks.

Flu shots are available at our Carewell Urgent Care centers. The shots are quick and easy to get.  Now more than ever, for most people, getting a flu shot makes good health sense.