Flu cases continue to rise in the United States, creating health challenges in the community.
As flu season approaches, there are specific things to keep in mind when dealing with an illness. Infection can be prevented by washing your hands frequently, maintaining social distancing, and staying hydrated. COVID-19 vaccine and flu shots are available on campus and in the surrounding area of Bryan-College Station.
Brazos County Health District Workforce Development Coordinator Mary Parrish said the best thing people can do to stay healthy is to get flu shots and COVID-19 immunizations and boosters.
“Staying up to date on that will be in your best interest,” Parrish said. “Not only do they prevent disease, but if you happen to get sick, it greatly shortens the amount of time you’re sick and gives you much less serious complications.”
Ellie Leal, a family nurse practitioner with Student Health and Services, recommends getting a flu shot before the peak, as the peak infection months begin.
“Hopefully before December, January [is] when we start to see spikes,” Leal said. “Moving forward from December to January is when we start to see [a] a kind of peak flu season… We tend to be a few months behind Europe and the new COVID[-19] variant B4 [and] B5 is starting to peak in Europe, so we can expect it to peak here in the coming months.”
Parrish said there has been a big spike in flu cases in the past month.
“We had 800 cases of the flu in the month of October compared to last year,” Parrish said. “We had 489 cases. That’s almost double the amount we had. [last year].”
According to the Baylor Scott & White website, the flu shot cannot cause the flu.
“Some people may experience a little pain or swelling when they get the injection, but it goes away in a day or two,” according to Baylor Scott & White. “Serious problems from the flu shot are rare. Sometimes a person who gets the flu shot can get the flu, but it will often be milder than without the flu shot.”
Parrish said it can often be difficult to tell the difference between COVID-19 and flu symptoms, and she recommends seeing a health care provider to get tested for both.
“One of the biggest differences between the two is that most COVID cases[-19] patients will have much more noticeable breathing problems,” Parrish said. “Most people would describe [flu] like an oppression.”
Parrish said there was a sharp decline in the number of flu cases during the pandemic era.
“It wasn’t because people weren’t getting tested, it was because people were very diligent about washing their hands, wearing masks, social distancing and all these things,” Parrish said. “These are still good practices for maintenance.”
Leal said there are antiviral medications that may benefit those with weak immune systems or additional medical risks.
“There are antiviral drugs like Paxlovid for COVID[-19] and Tamiflu for influenza which can potentially shorten the duration and lessen the severity of symptoms,” Leal said. “Usually we only prescribe them to people who are in risk categories, which are people with chronic diseases.”
Parrish said the Brazos County Health District is offering free COVID-19 vaccinations and flu shots.
“You don’t need insurance or an appointment. All you have to do is show up at the front desk and ask for [a COVID-19 or flu shot]Parrish said. “We would be more than happy to assist you.”
Leal said COVID-19 boosters and the flu shot are free for all students at the clinic and pharmacy provided by Student Health Services.
“Anyone can go online or call and make an appointment to schedule a COVID[-19] booster or flu shot or both, they are sure to come together,” Leal said.
According to Baylor Scott & White, the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective even after getting sick with COVID-19.
“Yes. People who have gotten sick with COVID-19 can still benefit from getting vaccinated,” according to Baylor Scott & White.
Baylor Scott & White’s website shows who is eligible to receive the vaccine.
“The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are now eligible for those over six months of age,” according to Baylor Scott and White. “Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine is licensed for those over 18 years of age.”