Sporting scrubs, gloves, a surgical mask and a face shield, Sofia Georghiou sat under a canopy on a lawn near Stanford Hospital. The first-year student in physician assistant studies was ready to protect the Stanford community against the flu.
While the country waits for a coronavirus vaccine to arrive, administering flu shots will reduce the number of people who become sick with influenza. And fewer flu patients will lessen the burden on hospitals caring for people stricken by the coronavirus.
“We’re doing what we can to protect people during COVID-19,” Georghiou said.
Like many first-year medical and physician assistant students at the Stanford School of Medicine, Georghiou is a member of Flu Crew, a student-run organization. Every fall, Flu Crew vaccinates Stanford students, staff and faculty, as well as people outside the university community who lack access to health care, such as farmworkers and homeless people.
The shots are free.
Inoculating oranges, one another
Flu Crew members spend a day being trained to administer the vaccine: They learn about the influenza virus, observe a shot being given and practice sticking needles into oranges. Once they’ve mastered inoculating fruit, they vaccinate one another. Then, they’re ready: The students are permitted to give the shots as long as a physician is present to supervise.
This fall, besides running on-campus clinics, they vaccinated workers at a mushroom farm, as well as churchgoers, library visitors and Salvation Army customers.
“At your first vaccination event, the hardest part is overcoming your nerves,” Georghiou said.
“But once you get over that, you don’t think about it anymore,” added her classmate, Monica Lanning, who sat across a table from Georghiou. “It’s cool. We already feel like experts in one skill.”
Whether it’s COVID-19, the flu, or the common cold, when illness hits there are certain items you want to have on hand, so you don’ t have to run to the store.
Dr. Donald Ford, of Cleveland Clinic said it’s always a good idea to have a working thermometer.
“You can get the ones that go in the mouth. You can get the ones that go in the ears. You can get ones that go on the skin of the forehead, and they’re all okay,” said Ford. “There’s a little bit of variation from one to another, and I don’t really have a preference. I would say that the ones that go under the tongue are going to be a little bit more accurate.”
One tool some people find handy for monitoring oxygen levels, particularly in people with coronavirus, is a pulse oximeter.
The device measures oxygen in the blood and is used to monitor people who are having problems with shortness of breath, to make sure their oxygen levels don’t fall.
Ford said you’ll also want to make sure you have enough pain reliever and fever reducer.
“Whether it’s acetaminophen or ibuprofen or Naprosyn. All those are available over the counter. They’re all helpful. We had some concerns in the early days of COVID about a possible worsening or conflict with using ibuprofen or Naprosyn, but those haven’t turned out to be true,” Ford said. “So, any of those are perfectly good, but I would definitely recommend that people have those in the house and have those available because you don’t want to be running out when the fever hits.”
Ford added, it’s also a good idea to check your medicine cabinet to make sure items are working and medications haven’t expired.
Copyright 2020 by Cleveland Clinic News Service. All rights reserved.Read More
There is some good health news in Alabama.
While coronavirus cases in the state are ticking up, flu activity is tracking behind last year, according to surveillance data from the Alabama Department of Public Health.
For the week ending Oct. 24, ADPH showed 2 of the state’s eight health districts – the northeastern part of the state and Jefferson County – had lab confirmed flu cases. The remainder of the districts showed no significant influenza. No districts reported significant activity.
For the same week last year, every district except Mobile showed lab confirmed cases. By the next week in 2019, the east central and southeastern districts were already showing significant influenza activity.
Flu rates are also low nationally. Forty nine states, including Alabama, were reporting “minimal” influenza activity. The only state reporting low flu activity was Iowa.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control said 1.2% of patients nationally reported visiting their physician had flu-like illnesses, well below the national baseline of 2.6%.
The exact timing and duration of flu varies each year but activity traditionally increases in October, peaking between December and February and lasting as long as May. The CDC recommends flu vaccines for everyone ages 6 months of age and older.
We answer the often searched question: “What are the symptoms of coronavirus versus the flu?”
The claim: Flu deaths are down to almost zero and data is being manipulated.
Donald Trump Jr. on Oct. 26 retweeted a Daily Mail article about a sharp drop in influenza-related deaths this year.
“We went from 75,000 flu deaths last year in America to almost 0,” he added. “Does anyone actually believe that? Or do you think there may be allocation games being played to manipulate the truth?”
His tweet — which has been seen by tens of thousands of people — was screenshotted and widely shared on Facebook going viral in a post by user Tyler Zed. As of Oct. 30, it has been shared more than 5,400 times and has gathered hundreds of comments.
Neither Trump nor Zed immediately returned a request for comment.
USA TODAY has previously debunked several claims asserting that different flu seasons were deadlier than the COVID-19 pandemic. These fact-checks have determined that COVID-19 is deadlier than the 2018-2019 flu season, the 1918 Spanish flu and the 2009 swine flu pandemic.
Nor have the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stopped reporting flu deaths as COVID-19 has ravaged the country, USA TODAY reporting found.
CDC data does not support Trump’s claim.
More: Fact check: What’s true and what’s false about coronavirus?
Defining flu season
Flu seasons vary from year to year and don’t have a strict timeline. Last year, flu season was the longest in a decade, lasting 21 weeks.
“In the United States, flu season occurs in the fall and winter. While influenza viruses circulate year-round, most of the time flu activity peaks between December and February, but activity can last as late as May,” the CDC website explains.
To account for this ambiguous period, the CDC releases weekly U.S. influenza summary updates from October through May. The CDC’s first report for the 2020-2021 flu season was posted for the week ending Oct. 3.
It’s too early to tell what this year’s flu season will bring, an epidemic expert said.
“We don’t know yet. We’re hopeful there’s fewer deaths, of course, and I think there are reasons to believe it will be fewer but we don’t really know at this point,” said David Aronoff, professor of medicine and director of the Infectious Disease Division at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.
Influenza-associated deaths last year were much lower than claimed
The CDC uses mathematical estimates to retroactively measure the burden of each flu season.
After each flu season, the CDC considers in-hospital death data and investigates death certificates to account for the total flu deaths. “(B)ecause not all deaths related to influenza occur in the hospital, we use death certificate data to estimate how likely deaths are to occur outside the hospital,” the CDC website explains.
According to the CDC’s 2018-2019 estimates, there were 34,200 influenza-associated deaths from October 2018 to May 2019. For the 2019-2020 season, the CDC has released a preliminary estimate
AUSTIN, TX — Travis County residents will have two convenient opportunities to receive free flu vaccinations on Saturday, Central Health officials said.
With the arrival of flu season, public health officials are urging residents to get their flu shot now — especially as the county and state continue to see an upward trend in cases of COVID-19. While the flu and virus that causes COVID-19 are different viruses, they result in many similar symptoms and can both cause serious health complications, health officials noted. This is especially true for those who are considered high-risk, including individuals with chronic health conditions, the elderly, and pregnant women, officials added. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a flu vaccine for everyone six months and older.
Those who have health insurance should bring their insurance card so their carrier can be billed directly, with no out-of-pocket costs for individuals. Free vaccines are available for those without insurance. Because the flu and COVID-19 are easily spread from person to person, Central Health is also reminding everyone to stay vigilant about wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), washing or sanitizing hands often, and watching their distance with others — keeping at least six feet between themselves and coworkers, close friends and family outside of their household.
Halloween Themed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Distribution
9 a.m. – 12 p.m. Ojeda Middle School, 4900 McKinney Falls Pkwy, Austin, TX 78744.
Del Valle Community Coalition and the Austin Latino Coalition are hosting a Halloween-themed event with walk-up and drive-through options available. There will be free flu shots, PPE and candy for the community. Children must be at least seven years old to receive a flu shot at this event. Additional details here.
The sponsors for this event are Austin Latino Coalition; Del Valle Community Coalition; HEB; Austin Public Health; and Central Health.
Boo the Flu (Drive-thru Event)
Noon to 3 p.m. Travis Early College High School, 1211 E. Oltorf St., Austin, TX 78704.
The annual Boo the Flu event, sponsored by Central Health-affiliated Sendero Health Plans, will take place with strict safety guidelines. Visitors can receive a flu vaccine while remaining in their car, as well as get free PPE and Halloween treats. Additional information can be found here.
The sponsors for this event are Sendero Health Plans; Austin Public Health; Austin Independent School District; Ascension Seton; Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired; City of Austin; El Mundo; City of Austin; and Travis County Constable – Precinct 4.
This article originally appeared on the Austin Patch
Note that some links may require registration or subscription.
COVID-19 cases are rising in almost every state, for what has become the U.S.’s third wave. Officials in Colorado, Idaho, Massachusetts and Texas have set new restrictions on schools, businesses and social gatherings. (BuzzFeed News, Washington Post)
Ditto for Europe, where the biggest countries are imposing new lockdowns. German Chancellor Angela Merkel closed bars and restaurants for a month, and French President Emmanuel Macron also proposed a month-long partial lockdown. (Reuters, AP)
As of Thursday at 8:00 a.m. EDT, the unofficial U.S. COVID-19 toll stood at 8,859,300 cases and 227,701 deaths — up 79,461 and 973, respectively, since this time a day ago.
One day after a White House press release credited President Trump with “ending the pandemic,” an administration spokesperson conceded it was “poorly worded.” (The Hill)
President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner bragged in an April interview with journalist Bob Woodward that Trump was “getting the country back from the doctors.” (CNN)
For some patients, COVID-19 apparently becomes an autoimmune disease. (New York Times)
Does the flu vaccine improve the immune system’s ability to combat COVID-19? A new preprint says maybe. (Scientific American)
Most people with mild to moderate COVID-19 illness produced a robust antibody response lasting at least 5 months, a small longitudinal analysis found. (Science)
Russian scientist Alexander Chepurnov contracted COVID-19 illness twice for the sake of an experiment investigating how long antibodies would protect him from the disease. (TASS)
Major League Baseball lit into COVID-positive Los Angeles Dodgers player Justin Turner for joining his teammates’ on-field celebration, sans mask, of their World Series victory. (ESPN)
“Sewage testing shows a country flush with coronavirus cases.” Get it? Sewage? Flush? Har har. (CNN)
In other news:
With COVID-19 cases on the rise again, flu vaccination is more important than ever.
How to help prevent a COVID-19 and flu ‘twindemic’ (Photo: Getty Images. Posed by models.)
Flu season has officially begun, and a common fear this year is that the continuing COVID-19 pandemic will cause a “twindemic” that could overwhelm the health care system. COVID-19 has been the biggest health concern of the year, but the flu remains a dangerous threat. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention article written by scientists, up to 61,000 flu-related deaths occur in the United States each year, and up to 810,000 people who get the flu are hospitalized.
Despite the many benefits offered by an annual flu vaccine, less than half of American adults get vaccinated.
“Everyone 6 months and older should get a seasonal vaccination,” said Dr. Michael Zuckman, an internal medicine specialist with White Plains Hospital Medical & Wellness in Armonk. “Some people, such as those over age 65, young children and those with underlying health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications. Getting vaccinated protects not only yourself but the people around you.”
Flu vaccination facts vs. fiction
Fiction: The flu shot is ineffective
There are many misconceptions about flu vaccination, starting with its effectiveness.
“The vaccination, on average, is about 45% effective each year. Because of that, people look at that percentage and think it’s ineffective,” Zuckman said. “What they may not realize is that number represents the percentage of people who do not have to be hospitalized. If look you at it from that perspective, you can see the value in getting a flu shot.”
Fiction: The flu shot will make you sick
People who forgo getting an annual vaccination often express concern that the shot will give them the flu, or they fear other side effects.
“The vaccine is formulated from dead or inactive viruses, so it will not make you sick with the flu,” Zuckman said. “It is also administered in your arm muscle, which is not an area the flu virus normally reaches.”
Additionally, the CDC has reported that there is no evidence that getting a flu vaccine increases the risk of becoming infected with the coronavirus.
The residual effects from a flu vaccination are far less severe than developing the flu itself.
“You might experience muscle aches, a headache or a slight temperature, all of which mimic the flu,” Zuckman said. “The vaccine stimulates the immune system, so, in a way, having flu-like symptoms is a good response. Typically, the symptoms disappear in a day or two.”
Fiction: You don’t need to get a flu shot every year
Having been vaccinated in the past does not necessarily mean you are immune to this year’s strains of influenza. Multiple flu strains circulate in any given year. Because flu viruses evolve so quickly, the previous year’s vaccine may not provide protection from the new strains.
“Research has shown that
Health experts have urged Americans to get their flu shots this year to help ward off a “twindemic.”
“There’s considerable concern as we enter the fall and the winter months and into the flu season that we’ll have that dreaded overlap” of COVID-19 and the flu, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said earlier this month.
The U.S. is battling a fresh surge of new coronavirus cases as winter approaches, and hospitals in some western and Midwestern states are filling up with COVID patients. The new rise follows an outbreak of COVID-19 cases that hit the Northeast hard earlier this year, followed by a rise in cases in the South over the summer.
“We far surpassed what we’re used to with the flu with COVID this spring,” said Dr. Stephanie Sterling, chief of infectious disease at NYU Langone Hospital–Brooklyn, in New York. “And to consider COVID plus flu together, this kind of pandemic would be devastating for communities and for healthcare systems.”
She said we need to do everything we can to prevent the flu.
“We don’t want a bad influenza season coinciding with a second wave of COVID,” Sterling said. “Flu shots are safe. They do help prevent illness.”
Why is getting a flu shot so important this year?
“One is to prevent flu illnesses and it’s complications, but the benefit in this current season are resources that would otherwise be needed to care for patients with the flu that would become scarce, could be directed toward the pandemic,” said Dr. Ram Koppaka, a medical officer for the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
The CDC estimates that last flu season, there were 38 million flu illnesses, 400,000 flu hospitalizations and 22,000 flu deaths. Koppaka said there were also 188 pediatric deaths from influenza.
An estimated 48% of U.S. adults and 64% of children received a flu vaccine during the same season. Koppaka said the number of flu vaccinations had been increasing prior to COVID-19, but there was still a need for improvement.
Sterling said that despite communities having a good amount of flu vaccinations, emergency rooms and hospital beds are often overwhelmed during a normal flu season.
This could be a great concern for hospitals in rural areas. Many rural hospitals have limited beds and ventilators, and rural Americans may be at higher risk of getting severely ill from COVID-19 due to a range of factors, according to the CDC.
Additionally, the body does not do well fighting two infections at the same time, according to Dr. Jacqueline P. Cooke, a hospitalist at Jefferson Health in New Jersey.
“The danger with COVID-19 is that the viral infection leads to overwhelming pneumonia and that type of viral pneumonia is what is causing the vast majority of people to need respiratory assistance and ventilation,” she said.
Who should get a flu shot?
The CDC encourages people six months of age and older to get an annual flu shot. There are different types of vaccines that
As several areas of the country struggle to contain surging cases of the novel coronavirus, another infectious disease poses a threat to many: the seasonal flu, which has already killed at least one person in Arkansas.
The Arkansas Department of Health in its most recent weekly influenza report announced the first flu death in the state of the 2020-21 season in a resident who was 65 or older, per the report, which is current as of Oct. 24. No other details were provided.
Additionally, since the end of September, some 118 people have tested positive for the flu in the state. At least 11 of the positives were included in the health department’s most recent report.
Medical experts have urged Americans to remain diligent this year in protecting themselves against the flu amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
MAJORITY OF AMERICANS SAY FLU SHOT IS BEST PREVENTATIVE MEASURE, BUT ONLY THIS MANY WILL GET IT
“It’s particularly important to get vaccinated [against the flu] this year because of the ongoing COVID pandemic: We want people to stay as healthy as possible,” Michelle Lin, an emergency room doctor and professor of emergency medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, previously told Fox News. “Since people are trying to stay home and out of the doctor’s office [and/or] ER, there has been a push to make the vaccine available widely earlier.”
Interestingly, however, the results of a survey commissioned by the National Foundation for Infectious Disease (NFID) and conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago found that while most participants agreed the vaccine is the best protection against flu, a smaller percentage actually plan to be inoculated.
In a survey of 1,000 adults ages 18 or older from across the country, 68% agreed that receiving the flu vaccine is the “best preventive measure against flu-related deaths and hospitalizations,” up from 61% the year before.
SHOULD YOU GET THE FLU SHOT? WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT THE 2020-21 FLU SEASON
But by comparison, only 59% of respondents said they actually plan to be vaccinated against the flu, with 15% saying they are unsure. (For context, 52% of respondents in 2019 said they planned to receive the flu vaccine that year.)
“The flu shot is incredibly important because it reduces your risk of contracting the flu,“ added Lin, noting the vaccine “also reduces your risk for complications and passing it to other people, especially pregnant women, young children and the elderly,” who are more susceptible to the virus.
Flu shots are already considered an important factor in combating the coronavirus pandemic, since widespread inoculations will hopefully help prevent medical facilities from becoming overwhelmed by dual diseases. But new research suggests flu shots may also play some role in preventing COVID-19 infections in the first place, The Scientific American reports.
A study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, found that workers at Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands who received a flu shot during the 2019-20 season were 39 percent less likely than their colleagues to test positive for the coronavirus as of June 1, 2020. Non-vaccinated employees contracted the virus at a 2.23 percent rate, compared to only 1.33 percent of those who were vaccinated.
The preliminary research would certainly require further clinical trials — though the author of the study noted it would be unethical to compel a control group of subjects to be denied a flu shot — and there could be several reasons why the vaccinated group staved off infection more easily, including the possibility that they are generally more health conscious and took more COVID-19 precautions.
Still, there have been other studies that hint at a possible link between flu shots (and other vaccines, for that matter) and lower COVID-19 risk. Additionally, the Radboud research team conducted a laboratory experiment in which they took blood cells from healthy individuals, purified them, and exposed some of them to a flu vaccine. After allowing the cells to grow for a few days, the researchers exposed them to the coronavirus. A day later they found that the vaccinated cells produced more of several kinds of immune molecules that fight off pathogens than those that were initially left alone. Read more at The Scientific American.
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