PBS39 News Reports
Why getting a flu shot this season may be more important than ever.
ALLENTOWN, LEHIGH COUNTY (WLVT-TV) - The fall season is fast approaching and with it comes flu season. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 8% of Americans get sick from the flu annually.
More than 6 months into a global pandemic, the yearly threat of flu season is fast approaching. Registered Nurse Terry Burger says “we are hoping that people will take advantage to go get a vaccine to protect themselves from influenza, especially given the fact that right now we don't have a COVID vaccine.” She is the Director of Infection Control and Prevention at Lehigh Valley Health Network. Burger talks about what the medical community is expecting this year when it comes to influenza and the coronavirus saying they base their predictions on what’s happening in the southern hemisphere. “So when we look at what's happening in Australia, right now, they seem to be having a relatively mild flu season and what our thoughts are, what we postulate is that most likely all of the masking the universal masking social distancing hand washing things, you know, quite frankly, we've taught for years, people are following and we think that that's having an impact on their flu season," says Burger.
Dr. Alex Benjamin is the Chief of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology at LVHN. When asked about the threat of contracting both COVID 19 and influenza at the same time, he says it’s unlikely. “It's possible that if you had one respiratory illness that your immune system may be, let's say preoccupied or busy taking care of one viral infection that you could be susceptible to another, you know that people get influenza illness are at higher risk of developing bacterial pneumonia is after they're as they're recovering from influenza. So certainly the same thing could be possible with with coronavirus or with other respiratory illnesses," says Dr. Benjamin.
Benjamin and Burger agree everyone should be thinking about getting a flu vaccine, but say September is still early. The doctors says “we sometimes think that the efficacy of the flu vaccine is limited to a few months so it's important to pick what months that you think are going to be the most protective for you. If flu season doesn't usually start until November or December, then getting your flu vaccine a little later, say like October-November, when we have the flu drive, may give you the most bang for buck. “ Burger adds, “the practices may have started, particularly for people that are only going to be seen once a year. They don't want to miss an opportunity.” LVHN hospitals will start distributing shots to in-patients and employees on October 1st, bu Dr. Benjamin says “if you're immunocompromised, however, you've had treatment for cancer, you're on chronic steroids, you have other reasons to be immunosuppressed, that it may make more sense for you to get the flu shot early to give you the most protection."
LVHN will hold a free community flu drive November 7th at Dorney Park and November 8th at Coca Cola Park. There will be social distancing in place, organizers say you don’t need to even step out of your car.