Health professionals worry about the onset of “Flu Season” as they continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last year, cases of the flu were at a record low — the Illinois Department of Health reported only 11 flu hospitalizations last year — optimistic statistics medical professionals attribute to increased COVID-19 health precautions. Masking up, social distancing, and symptom monitoring can prevent the spread of the flu, but local health departments say the push for flu vaccinations will be stronger than ever.
Despite already high COVID-19 vaccination efforts, Janet Hill, Chief Operating Officer for the Rock Island County Health Department, explains how pushing for individuals to get vaccinated against the flu is just as important to minimize pressure placed on already over-worked healthcare workers.
“The hospitals are exhausted the public health professionals are exhausted,” Hill said. “Now we have tools for both flu and Covid and both of them are vaccination.”
Lisa Caffery with Genesis Health System explains how flu outbreaks impact hospitals and staff in terms of mental health, “If we have a rough flu season like we have had in past years and then add Covid on top of it, it could stress the health system even more than we are stressed today.” Caffery explained.
Local health officials emphasize, however, in the effort to deter the intersection of “Flu Season” and the COVID-19 pandemic from taking too large a toll on the community, prevention efforts take precedence over remedial efforts. This means — according to local hospitals and health departments — vaccination is the current best tool. Caffery said, “It’s absolutely necessary that you get both vaccines… they are two different viruses.”