Local health experts say COVID-19 pandemic complicates flu season

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Doctors and health leaders said with the flu season approaching, it’s important that people take care of their health.

They said the COVID-19 pandemic complicates this flu season, and getting the flu or coronavirus weakens your immune system, making you more susceptible to then catching the other virus.

“I would be lying if I didn’t say I was concerned,” said Dr. James Ausfahl, a physician with UnityPoint Health.

September and October mark the start of the annual flu season. Doctors said people should take action now.

“It does take two weeks for the flu shot to take full effect, so we want to time it so that they get the flu season and it then it gets full effectiveness by the time peak flu season starts,” said Sam An, a pharmacist with Alwan’s Pharmacy in Peoria.

Health experts said the combination of the ongoing pandemic and the flu season will be challenging.

“With the COVID out there, the last thing you need to is get the flu and then be exposed to somebody with COVID,” said Ausfahl.

Symptoms of COVID-19 and the flu often overlap.

“Most of the symptoms of both of them tend to be respiratory symptoms, the stuffy, runny nose, the coughing, the fever, the feeling like somebody pounded you with a meat mallet,” Ausfahl said.

One pharmacist said staying healthy can avoid overwhelming the hospital system.

“We want to keep people out of the hospitals for flu while coronavirus is going around,” said An.

Ausfahl said keeping up good hygiene practices and following COVID-19 protocols will help prevent the spread of the flu too.

“We get sloppy with that, we could very easily get slammed dunked,” said Ausfahl.

Ausfahl said everyone over the age of six months should get the annual flu shot, especially those at high risk for flu and COVID-19. He also said if you feel symptoms of either the flu or COVID-19, it’s best to call your primary care physician first.

“This is deadly serious, and emphasis on the word deadly,” said Ausfahl.

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