ROCKFORD (WREX) — The flu season happens every year, but this year's season will be a unique one amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"This is a little bit of a unique year with COVID-19 occurring at the same time a flu season is going to start," says Swedish American Director of Pharmacy Tom Carey.
The flu season typically begins in late November and peaks in February. Last year it brought devastating loss in Winnebago County with the first pediatric death in a decade. During last year's peak week there were a total of 821 cases, nearly double what the county saw the year before.
"There's a lot of parallels and crossovers between these two diseases, but they are distinct," says Carey. "If someone were to get COVID-19 for example, they're still at risk [for the flu] and there's some suggesting they may be at a higher risk of getting influenza and vice versa."
As hospitals continue to treat COVID-19 patients, an influx of of flu hospitalizations and complications is a concern to health systems. Which is why this year, health experts are urging people to get their flu shot.
"We anticipate normal supplies of flu supplies," says Carey. "However, we anticipate a higher than normal amount of people getting the vaccine."
The shot is typically available toward the end of August or beginning of September, and protects a person for roughly eight or nine months. Meaning if you get your shot early in the season, it will continue to protect your throughout the peak.
"It still significantly reduces a patients risk of getting the flu but from going to the hospital," says Carey. "And for patients 65 or older from death."