Health Officials Stress Importance of Influenza Vaccine as Flu Season Looms Ahead

The CDC says they have developed a test that will check for seasonal flu viruses, and the virus that causes COVID-19. 

DULUTH, Minn.- While the COVID-19 pandemic has been the most prominent public health concern since march, each winter brings a new flu season. Which is why officials are urging people to get vaccinated.

“Now is the time to get it,” stressed Diane Seiloff, Adult Services Coordinator for St. Louis County Public Health.

Generally, flu symptoms include a fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and/or fatigue. “The symptoms are very similar between COVID and influenza,” Seiloff said.

While it is hard to tell those symptoms on your own, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says they have developed a test that will check for A and B type seasonal flu viruses, and the virus that causes COVID-19.

The Food and Drug Administration has issued an Emergency Use Authorization for the test and initial kits were sent out last month, only for use at CDC-supported public health labs at state and local levels.

It will not replace the current COVID-19 test in use, just meant to streamline surveillance for flu and coronavirus.

Meanwhile, a flu shot will either eliminate or lessen flu symptoms. This in turn should keep people with flu symptoms out of hospitals which may already be dealing with an influx of COVID-19 patients this winter.

“With COVID we don’t want to overwhelm the healthcare system with influenza patients,” said Seiloff.

“We want people to get immunized so that they’re not going to the hospital with serious symptoms. Studies have shown that people that have gotten the flu shot may still get the flu however their symptoms are generally less severe,” she said.

Most pharmacies and clinics have the flu shot ready to go right now, Seiloff said, and those that may not will get them by November at the latest.

She said public health does not anticipate any type of shortage of the shot this flu season.

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