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Doctors Encouraging Flu Vaccinations, Warn Of Double-Punch With COVID-19

A San Diego health care worker prepares a flu vaccine in this undated photo.
Kris Arciaga
A San Diego health care worker prepares a flu vaccine in this undated photo.

We are just about to head into flu season and even though COVID-19 cases are trending down, experts are warning about a potential double-punch with influenza.

"We learned last year that if you don't mix with a lot of other people — the flu has nowhere to go," said Dr. Heidi Meyer, a family physician at Kaiser Permanente.

RELATED: Flu Cases, Deaths Down Dramatically In San Diego

Doctors Encouraging Flu Vaccinations, Warn Of Double-Punch With COVID-19
Listen to this story by Matt Hoffman.

Last season was mild. There were not a lot of influenza cases, credited to pandemic isolation and social distancing measures, but with many COVID-19 restrictions gone and people mixing again — this year could be a different story.

"The range of the seriousness is quite wide and I really hope we hit the low end of seriousness, but the potential is quite large," Meyer said. "And it’s concerning because right now our hospitals are pretty close to capacity — but there’s no flu yet."

RELATED: California Now Has Nation's Lowest Coronavirus Transmission Rate

Meyer is telling her patients to get the flu vaccine by the end of October to be ready for a potentially early influenza season.

"This is the year to get it and even if you don't think you need it personally — get it for the health care workers," she said. "Get it for the hospitals that are overwhelmed still that are working at 85% to 95% capacity. We don't want to get to the point where we’re running out or out of beds like happened last January just with COVID and without the Delta Variant and not any flu."

Meyer said like coronavirus, age and underlying conditions can lead to bad outcomes with the flu.

"The worry is that someone could get the delta variant and they could also get infected with the seasonal flu," Meyer said. "That might not normally affect them severely, but if they get both at the same time a young healthy person could die from the combination from both of those, where as they would never die from one or the other."

FLUSEASON

There could also be an increase in coronavirus testing as it can be hard to tell if it’s just the flu or a mild case of COVID-19.

"I would encourage people to get themselves tested ideally about 72 hours after symptoms start," she said. "Isolate prior to testing and wait for that negative test before you go out in the world."

Meyer is encouraging people with flu or COVID-like symptoms to mask up because it could save a life. She adds that the coronavirus vaccine does not protect against the flu and said both inoculations can be done at the same time.