STATEN ISLAND, NY – The leaves starting to turn red/orange is a sign of Fall as well as the season for flu activity, which begins to increase in October.
Flu activity usually peaks between December and January — but since the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, there is a bit of unpredictability in the timing and duration of the season.
Health experts predict that this winter we will see an active flu season. Pair that with the potential of COVID-19 surges this winter, and this might be an intense season.
“This could very well be the year in which we see a twindemic,” Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease professor at Vanderbilt University, told NPR. “That is, we have a surge in COVID-19 and simultaneously an increase in influenza. We could have them both affecting our population at the same time.”
Here are five things the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends to stay prepared for the flu season.
The CDC ideally recommends getting vaccinated by the end of October, however, the agency emphasizes that vaccination after October can still provide protection during the peak of flu season. The annual flu vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months and older.
In the 2022-2023 flu season, the CDC recommends three flu vaccines for people 65 years and older. These are Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent vaccine, Flublok Quadrivalent recombinant flu vaccine and Fluad Quadrivalent adjuvanted flu vaccine. If one of these are not available at the time of administering the flu shot, people in this age group can resort to getting the standard flu shot.
Find a flu vaccine location near you at www.vaccines.gov/find-vaccines.
WHAT IF YOU RECENTLY HAD COVID?
Those who test positive for COVID-19 will need to observe a short waiting period — until they are no longer moderately or severely ill and have completed their isolation period — before receiving the flu vaccine, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH ).
The isolation period recommended by the CDC for those with COVID is currently five days, beginning with the first full day after testing positive, plus an additional five days of mask wearing and social distancing. If you had no symptoms, yet develop symptoms within 10 days of when you were first tested, the clock restarts at day 0 on the day of symptom onset.
Those with COVID who are in a health-care setting can receive the flu vaccine sooner, the NIH states.
2 DOSES FOR SOME KIDS
As recommended by the CDC, children 6 months through 8 years getting a flu vaccine for the first time, and those who have only previously gotten one dose of flu vaccine, should get two doses for the best protection. The first dose primes the immune system, while the second dose actually provides the immunity. For children in this group, it is recommended to get the first dose as soon as possible, because the second dose needs to be given at least four weeks after the first.
Children who previously got two doses of flu vaccine (at any time) only need one dose this season.
WHEN TO TAKE AN ANTI-VIRAL DRUG
For people who have the flu or suspected flu and who are at higher risk of serious flu complications, the CDC recommends prompt treatment with flu antiviral drugs to fight against flu viruses in your body. People at higher risk of flu complications include young children, adults 65 years of age and older, pregnant people and people with certain medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease.
Antiviral drugs can lessen fever and flu symptoms and shortened the time you are sick about one day. For people at higher risk of serious flu complications, treatment with antiviral drugs can mean the difference between milder or more serious illness, possibly resulting in a hospital stay. Antiviral drugs are not sold over the counter and you can only get them if you have a prescription from a health-care provider.
Practicing good health habits, like avoiding people who are sick, covering your cough and washing your hands, often can help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses like flu.
Other healthy habits include: staying at home when sick; avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth; cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill; getting plenty of sleep; staying physically active; staying hydrated, and eating nutritious food.