MADISON, Wis. — Doctors are not only encouraging people to get their COVID-19 vaccines, but their flu shots too. After a nearly non-existent season last year, they warn this fall could not only be bad… but confusing.
Q: How can I tell if I have COVID or just a bad case of the flu?
A: There’s no foolproof way to diagnose yourself. Both contagious respiratory illnesses come with a long list of similar symptoms: fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, sore throat, runny nose, muscle pain, headache, etc. The main difference is how long it takes for symptoms to appear. For the flu, people typically experience symptoms 1 to 4 days after infection. With COVID, people usually have symptoms five days after infection.
Q: When should I see a doctor if I think I might have COVID or the flu?
A: If you can’t stay home and isolate, doctors say, yes, you should see them and get tested. This fall, Dane County doctors will be testing for both flu and the coronavirus, so they can confirm which virus you have.
Q: Can I get my flu and COVID shots on the same day?
A: Yes! In fact, if you haven’t gotten your coronavirus vaccine yet, this is what doctors recommend. Local hospitals, including SSM Health, will be offering both shots at their clinics this fall. Local pharmacy chains, like Hy-Vee, are currently offering both shots, too. Pharmacists administer the shots in separate arms. Later this fall, people who are due for a COVID booster can also get that done at the same time as their flu shot.
Q: Can pharmacists combine the flu and COVID vaccines so I only have to get one poke in the arm?
A: Not this year, but an all-in-one flu/COVID combo shot is currently in development by vaccine makers Moderna and Novavax. Doctors say that, should COVID boosters be needed annually, people will most likely be able to get them in a multi-purpose shot. No word yet on how soon these vaccines will be available.
Q: When does flu season start?
A: The flu usually starts spreading in October, peaks between December and February, and lingers as late as May.
Q: How bad will this year’s flu season be?
A: Doctors caution that, unlike last year’s nearly non-existent season, the flu will return this year. The same common sense measures can protect against both: frequent hand-washing, mask-wearing, and staying home when sick.
Q: Who should get a flu shot?
A: While the COVID vaccines are only available for people 12 & up right now, the CDC recommends everyone 6 months & up get a flu shot.
This information was provided to News 3 Now during interviews with SSM Health’s Dr. David Ottenbaker and Hy-Vee’s Christina Gayman.
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