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Hospitals weigh in: Wear a mask, get a flu shot to slow rise of cases

Knowing your COVID-19 status is important, because the symptoms for both viruses are so similar. 
Dr. Theresa Birardi of ChristianaCare examines patient Victoria Cross
Dr. Theresa Birardi of ChristianaCare examines patient Victoria Cross

Even with new COVID-19 restrictions, health officials and state hospitals haven’t backed off their calls for people to wear masks, get their flu shots and be tested.

Both Nemours Health System and ChristianaCare are part of a coalition of  100 hospitals nationwide participating in a campaign to get people to MaskUp to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

“The country has reached a tipping point,” their ads say. “The power to do what is right is now in the hands of everyone everywhere.”

And the discovery of the state’s first flu case of the season last week led to another round of calls for people to get flu shots, partly to prevent flu and COVID-19 cases from filling up hospitals and make it hard for very sick people to get the care they need. Even though only one case has been identified, few people are lab-tested by their doctors or clinics, so it’s likely there’s much more flu circulating.

 

With positive cases and hospitalizations both headed sharply up, the state has had 30,153 positive cases since March 11. On Thursday, the Division of Public Health’s data dashboard said 165 people were hospitalized, 30 of them in critical care.

Health officials have been pushing residents to get flu shots since early October.

Dr. Theresa Birardi of ChristianaCare
Dr. Theresa Birardi

Dr. Theresa Birardi, a primary care physician at ChristianaCare Practice Care at Claymont, noted the importance of knowing your status, because the symptoms for both viruses are so similar. 

“The first important thing to figure out is it COVID or is it the flu?” Birardi said. “If someone does have the flu then the best thing to do after knowing for certainty that they have it is to reach out to their primary care doctor’s office and then work with them to figure out what works best for the patient, whether it be an in person, or virtual visit.” 

Knowing your COVID-19 status is important, Birardi said, because the symptoms for both viruses are so similar. 

One key difference is that the flu does not cause someone to lose their taste and smell, something rather distinct in COVID-19 cases. 

 

While there are major worries about the flu season adding another depth of misery to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is also a bonus side to to the ordeal. Many think the flu season might be milder than it normally would be because of things like social distancing, mask wearing and lots of hand washing or sanitizing.

“We know that looking at the southern hemisphere that the cases of flu this year in places like Australia are a lot lower,” Birardi said. “Many experts and almost anyone working in healthcare is hoping that this same phenomenon is mimicked where we are.” 

However, Birardi also said that we won’t really know the effects of mask wearing and social distancing on the spread of the flu until months after the  flu season has ended.

People still need to get vaccinated, she said.

Even if you’re feeling flu-like symptoms, you can get your flu shot because the flu vaccine is not a live vaccine, so it won’t worsen your symptoms.

However, she also stressed that sooner is better than later because the vaccine takes two full weeks to inoculate you against the virus. 

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