Ready or not, flu season is upon us once again. While the flu may not be as deadly as COVID-19, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t protect yourself from it. The best way to do that is by getting a flu shot. Doing so not only protects you from the flu, but it also saves you from the unnecessary worry of possibly confusing flu symptoms with those of the coronavirus.
“Because the flu and COVID have similar symptoms, it starts a whole process that’s much more complicated than it has been in years past,” said Mark Pfitzner, M.D., director for the University of Utah Student Health Center. “Now, it means you have to get tested for both and may have to quarantine until you get test results back. The flu shot is the best way to avoid all those complications.”
There are questions about the best time to get a flu shot due to the rather long period of time we consider flu season. Some worry that if they get a shot as soon as they are available they won’t be protected later in the season. The good news is that the flu shot gives the recipient about six months of immunity from the time they get it, possibly longer.
“Our flu season is typically later in January and February, but I remember years ago we had an early start in November one year where everybody was getting it really early,” said Pfitzner. “So, it varies from year to year. I can say, personally, I’ve had my flu shot for the year already, so it’s good to get them as they’re available.” Typically, a person is fully protected two weeks after the flu shot.
Flu shots are currently available at multiple locations both on and off campus, and are covered 100% by health insurance. At the Student Health Center, flu shots are free for those covered under the student health plan. The shots are just $25 for those without insurance. Students on their own or a parent’s insurance plan will find flu shots are covered at most pharmacies as part of their health insurance benefits. Faculty and staff can get a flu shot on Friday, Sept. 25, as part of Employee Appreciation Week, or at their health care provider and local pharmacies.
In addition to getting a flu shot, people can reduce their risk of getting the flu by taking precautions similar to those used for avoiding COVID-19. Wash your hands thoroughly and often; avoid going out if you are sick; and wear a mask to help stop the spread of germs and viruses.
“There’s been some evidence in Australia, which is in the midst of their flu season over the summer that they had a lot less flu than they normally would have expected in a regular year,” said Pfitzner. “They think it’s associated with the mask use.”
There is no vaccine for COVID-19. However, you can protect yourself from the flu. Reduce your risk of serious illness and get a flu shot now.