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How to be Prepared for this Year's Influenza Season During the Ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic

The leaves are beginning to change and drop, school is in session (virtually, in-person, or a combination of the two), and the temperature outside is starting to cool down. We have officially made it to Autumn, which includes everything pumpkin spice and other things not so nice, like viruses! Around this time of year, there is a strong focus on preventing and managing the Influenza (flu) season, and not confusing it with common colds which also increase in the colder months. COVID-19 has brought some new challenges to this time of year. Not only are we dealing with the unexpected challenges stemming from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we now must distinguish between the "normal" or "expected" sickness and dangers of colds and the flu, with the complications caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic during this year's flu season.

COVID-19 vs. Influenza

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), both COVID-19 and the flu can have varying degrees of signs and symptoms, ranging from no symptoms (asymptomatic) to severe symptoms. Both are respiratory illnesses that are highly contagious but are caused by different viruses. SARS-Cov-2 causes COVID-19 and several influenza viruses cause seasonal flu.

Common symptoms both COVID-19 and flu share include:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

  • Fatigue (tiredness)

  • Sore throat

  • Runny or stuffy nose

  • Muscle pain or body aches

  • Headache

  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone, and testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis. While flu and COVID-19 share many characteristics, there are some key differences between the two.

What are the differences between Influenza and COVID-19?

  • Flu Symptoms - Symptoms from flu viruses can cause mild to severe illness.

  • COVID-19 Symptoms - Symptoms of COVID-19 that differ from the flu may include a change in or loss of taste or smell.

How to Prevent the Flu

To best protect yourself and others from the flu and to stop the spread of germs, the CDC recommends the following tips:

  • Avoid close contact - Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.

  • Stay home when you are sick - If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. This will help prevent spreading your illness to others.

  • Cover your mouth and nose - Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick. Flu and other serious respiratory illnesses, like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), whooping cough, and COVID-19, are spread by cough, sneezing, or unclean hands.

  • Clean your hands - Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth - Germs can spread when a person touches something contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.

  • Practice other good health habits - Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work, or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

How to Prevent and Limit Exposures to COVID-19

The many sides of COVID-19 are still being discovered and researched within the medical community's ongoing pursuit to understand, treat, and eventually prevent the virus. With COVID-19, it is important to know that asymptomatic people can infect those around them and spread the viruses to others without their knowledge. The best way to prevent contracting COVID-19 is to avoid exposure risks. The CDC offers the following tips to protect yourself and others from exposure risks to COVID-19:

  • Avoid Close Contact - Practice social distancing by staying 6 feet apart from one another.

  • Cover your Nose and Mouth by Wearing a Mask - COVID-19 spreads through respiratory droplets that can remain on surfaces and in the air; prevent inhaling the virus by wearing a mask. Masks are essential to protect others and reduce the risks of transmitting the virus.

  • Wash Hands Often - Wash hands often for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until dry. For the latest on safe hand sanitizers, click here. Be sure to wash your hands...

    • After being in a public space

    • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing

    • Before eating or preparing food

    • Before touching your face

    • After handling your mask

    • After changing a diaper

    • After caring for someone sick

    • After touching animals or pets

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

  • Cover Sneezes and Coughs - Always attempt to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or use the inside of your elbow. Do not spit.

    • Throw used tissues in the trash.

    • Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer containing 60% alcohol.

  • Clean and Disinfect - Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily, including tables, doorknob, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.

  • Monitor your Health Daily - Be alert for symptoms. Watch for fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19. Follow CDC guidance if symptoms develop.

In Conclusion

As we enter this season of uneasiness and try to limit the dangers of Influenza and COVID-19, everyone must do the best they can to minimize the risk to themselves and others. While there isn't a vaccine available right now for COVID-19, there is one for Influenza. For recommendations for the 2020-21 year, click here.

HCP's COVID-19 Toolkit is filled with several resources including training courses, policies and procedures, and forms designed to help organizations navigate this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. To add our COVID-19 Toolkit or for any compliance need or concern contact us by email: support@hcp.md or reach us by phone: 855-427-0427.


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