By Dr. Debra Esser, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska’s chief medical officer
By now, you’ve probably heard the word “pandemic” countless times as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to impact people’s health, well-being and daily life. Flu season is coming, and with it, the possibility of a twindemic, or two pandemics happening at once.
The impact of a twindemic
Here’s how a twindemic could severely disrupt our health care system: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the U.S. has had more than 6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Sept. 21. In Nebraska, we’ve had 41,083 of those cases.
Additionally, the CDC estimates that at least 410,000 Americans were hospitalized with the flu last year. If the same number of patients were to become sick and need to go the hospital during the 2020-2021 flu season, it would strain our available health care resources, including:
- Personal protective equipment needed to keep health care workers safe
- Hospital beds open and available for new patients
- Health care staff, who’re already under an immense amount of pressure due to COVID-19
It’s important we all do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19 and the flu within our communities to ensure doctor’s offices and hospitals have enough of these resources available to treat patients, regardless of whatever illness, accident or disease brings them in for care.
While preventive steps, such as practicing social distancing, wearing facemasks in public and washing your hands frequently, are all actions you should take to protect yourself and your loved ones from COVID-19, there is currently no vaccine available for this virus.
However, you can and should get vaccinated for the flu.
Protect our state. Get your flu shot
The CDC recommends the flu vaccine for everyone aged six months and older. It’s important to receive the vaccine at the right time, which is by the end of October, because it takes several weeks for the vaccine to become effective.
Flu shots are available now and are a covered benefit for most patients. Typically, the vaccine helps protect people from several strains of the flu, which experts predict will be most common. Besides prevention, the flu vaccine provides additional benefits and can:
- Reduce the severity of illness if you received the vaccine but still get sick
- Protect women during and after pregnancy
- Be life-saving in children
- Reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization for children and adults
It’s up to every one of us to do our part in protecting the health of our community and our state. To prevent a twindemic and unnecessary loss of life, we must prioritize following COVID-19 safety measures and providing flu shots.
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