Sep 30, 2020 1:00 PM

Author: Alex Boulanger

As flu season approaches, University of Utah Health is preparing guidelines for how to evaluate and determine whether a patient has COVID-19 or influenza. The coronavirus pandemic has made it difficult to tell the difference between the two viruses due to an overlap of symptoms. The best way to prevent flu is by getting vaccinated each year. Doctors at U of U Health encourage everyone to get a flu vaccine to protect yourself, to protect the people around you, and to potentially avoid serious complications. Here are some frequently asked questions about influenza.

Why is it important to get a flu vaccine this year?

It’s likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both spread this fall and winter. Healthcare systems could be overwhelmed treating both patients with flu and patients with COVID-19. This means getting a flu vaccine during 2020-2021 is more important than ever.

While getting a flu vaccine will not protect against COVID-19, there are many important benefits, such as:

  • Flu vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization, and death.
  • Getting a flu vaccine can also save healthcare resources for the care of patients with COVID-19.

How will U of U Health doctors determine whether a patient has influenza or COVID-19?

Every year, doctors determine whether someone has influenza based on a patients’ clinical symptoms. Because flu and COVID-19 share many characteristics, it’s important for a patient to have a clinical evaluation and testing if necessary. Doctors at U of U Health follow the current influenza activity in Utah through the Utah Department of Health (UDOH). Following the UDOH Influenza weekly report helps doctors assess a patient and confirm a diagnosis.

Can face masks also help prevent the spread of influenza?

Yes, and the cold. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Both COVID-19 and flu can spread from person-to-person, between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six-feet). Both are spread mainly by droplets made when people with the illness (COVID-19 or flu) cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled in the lungs.

Who is at high risk for complications from the flu?

Those at high risk of serious complications include children under five, adults 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with chronic medical conditions.

How long does it take for the flu vaccine to take effect?

After you get a flu shot, it takes about two weeks for your body to develop its defenses.

Does a flu vaccine increase your risk of getting COVID-19?

There is no evidence that getting a flu vaccine increases your risk of getting sick from a coronavirus, like the one that causes COVID-19.

If someone with the flu is being cared for at home, what should they do?

  • Check with their health care provider about any special care they might need if they are pregnant or have a health condition such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma, or emphysema.
  • Stay home for seven days after symptoms begin or until you are symptom-free for 24 hours, whichever is longer.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Drink clear fluids (such as water, broth, sports drinks, electrolyte beverages for infants) to keep from being dehydrated.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes. Clean hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand gel often and especially after using tissues and after coughing or sneezing into hands.
  • Avoid close contact with others. Do not go to work or school while ill.

Who should be seen by a doctor?

If a person is at high risk for complications or has worsening symptoms, they should seek care from their health care provider or an Urgent Care clinic. If symptoms such as difficulty breathing, bluish lips, signs of dehydration. Or being less responsive than normal are present, the patient should go to the emergency room.

How much does a flu shot cost?

Most insurance plans cover the flu vaccine 100% with no co-pay required. Self-pay prices are University of Utah Health are:

  • Regular flu vaccine and flu mist - $30
  • High dose flu vaccine (recommended for elderly patients age 65 and older) - $60
  • Egg free flu vaccine - $60

How do I schedule a flu shot at University of Utah Health?

Alex Boulanger

Public Affairs

coronavirus covid-19 flu wellness influenza flu shot

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