What you need to know about the upcoming flu season, considering COVID-19

University Health System recommends getting a flu shot now

University Health System explains the importance of getting the flu shot.

Are you considering getting the flu shot?

This year, it’s more important than ever to get a flu shot, according to medical experts.

Dr. Jason Bowling, a hospital epidemiologist at University Health System, provided some insight on how dangerous it could be to have the flu and coronavirus at the same time.

As we get deeper into flu season, why is it more important than ever to receive the flu shot this year?

“As we all know, we’ve been dealing with the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic this year, and what we don’t want to see is (the) flu virus circulating on top of the COVID-19 diseases that we are seeing,” Bowling said. “A worst-case scenario would be having the epidemic of flu virus on top of this COVID-19 pandemic -- a scenario described by others as a twin-demic. The flu vaccine is really important help prevent the flu virus from circulating.”

How is COVID-19 different from the flu?

“There are a lot of similarities, but there are a lot of differences. One difference with COVID-19, as far as signs and symptoms, are that people have noticed a loss of taste and smell -- and that’s a little more specific to COVID-19 than influenza," Bowling said. "People tend to be a little bit contagious longer with COVID-19 than the flu. The biggest difference with flu and COVID-19 is that we have some treatments including oral pills for flu and we have a vaccine that works for flu, but we are still waiting for a vaccine for COVID-19.”

How bad would it be to have the flu and COVID-19?

“That could be a big challenge and it’s been documented that people have been infected with both flu virus and the virus that causes COVID-19 at the same time -- and that really puts you at risk for having severe illness and complications to include respiratory failure, where you may end up in ICU on a mechanical ventilator, and worst-case scenario, even death,” the doctor said.

Can you get flu and COVID-19 at the same time?

“Yes, these are two different diseases and it is possible to be infected by both at the same time, which makes it much harder for your body to fight off either one," Bowling said.

Does the flu shot protect you from COVID-19?

University Health System explained that the flu shot does not directly protect you from COVID-19, but it does protect you from the flu.

If you don’t get it and you contract influenza, your body’s immune system is weakened by trying to fight that off, and you are more susceptible to other illnesses, like COVID-19.

If you need medical attention, University Health System provides health care for families close to home at one of the many clinic locations, including the historic Robert B. Green Campus, Texas Diabetes Institute, 13 neighborhood clinics across the community, two ExpressMed urgent-care clinics and four outpatient renal dialysis centers.