Local healthcare providers prepare for flu season and COVID-19 pandemic to coincide
A Sanford Health infectious disease specialist says getting your flu shot is more important this year than ever
FARGO, N.D. — Medical workers are concerned over the flu season and the coronavirus pandemic merging this fall.
Just like most healthcare providers across the country, Sanford Health in Fargo is in preparation mode.
“We ramp up our testing supplies and we are rolling out a massive campaign for early influenza vaccination so we can have most people, as many people, protected from influenza as possible,” said Sanford Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Avish Nagpal.
The flu season is quickly approaching and with the coronavirus still on the move, this fall and winter pose a whole different set of challenges.
Although COVID-19 is more easily transmittable and carries a higher mortality rate than influenza, Dr. Nagpal says without a test, it’s difficult to clinically differentiate the two respiratory illnesses.
“We anticipate doing a lot of testing and that’s obviously going to strain our testing capacity here,” he explained.
That’s why health officials are encouraging everyone to get a flu vaccine this fall, which will be ready at Sanford in September.
“If you’re still undecided about the flu shot, this is the time to make up your mind and go ahead and get a flu shot. This is an important year to get your flu shot because we can’t have peaking of influenza and COVID at the same time,” added Nagpal. “That would strain our healthcare resources significantly.”
Some good news: COVID-19 mitigation efforts should help contain the spread of the flu as well.
“Masks and social distancing; that will help our influenza spread too, so hopefully our influenza season will not be as intense as we typically see.”
Dr. Napgal says another way of easing the burden on our healthcare systems is to limit the number of tests per household.
“If one person is diagnosed in the family with either influenza or COVID, then you don’t need a second test when a second person gets ill. It is very likely it’s the same illness that’s in your household.”
His main message to the community is clear: “Get your flu shot. It does protect against the flu, and it will help us, it will help our community and it will obviously help you and your family.”
Dr. Nagpal says it’s rare but possible for someone to come down with both viruses at the same time.