Health department doing double duty for community
The Monongalia County Health Department did double duty Thursday, offering free weekly COVID-19 testing and flu shots to the community at the 4-H Building at Mylan Park. The department conducted 496 COVID tests.
Flu season is getting underway in the U.S., while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to surge in some areas. Wednesday saw a state all-time high for new COVID-19 cases in West Virginia, as 885 new cases were reported. Thursday, an additional 696 cases were reported. The death toll as of Thursday was at 555.
Both the flu and COVID-19 are respiratory illnesses that are highly contagious, but they are caused by different viruses. The best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated each year.
“While we don’t have a vaccine yet for COVID-19, we do have a flu vaccine,” said Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a Mayo Clinic pediatric infectious diseases physician. “We are strongly recommending everyone over
6 months of age to get the flu vaccine this year as a way to decrease their risk of becoming ill, their need to become hospitalized, or from dying from influenza.
“It’s impossible to look at someone and know whether they have COVID-19 or influenza. Doing whatever you can to prevent influenza infection in yourself and your family is really important this year,” Rajapakse added. “One of the best ways to do that is by getting a flu shot.
“The symptoms of both diseases are very similar and have almost complete overlap. If you can protect yourself from flu this year, that will also really help our health care systems as we expect there to be strain from people who have COVID-19.”
COVID-19 and the flu have many signs and symptoms in common, including:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle aches
- Nausea or vomiting, but this is more common in children than in adults
“And as much as we can minimize the number of people who get ill from influenza and need care in a hospital, the better our health care systems will be able to cope with the influx of patients with COVID-19,” Rajapakse said.
The next MCHD COVID testing date is set for 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 20 at the WVU Rec Center.
The flu vaccine takes about two weeks to become fully effective. Thursday marked two weeks before Thanksgiving, so individuals who plan to gather with family members for the holiday should get a vaccine soon in order to be ready, according to MCHD.