UW Medicine Recommends Flu Shots To Avoid Resurgence

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Many of the same pharmacies that provided COVID-19 shots are also equipped with the flu shot and offer walk-ups and appointments. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Lucas Combos,Patch Staff

SEATTLE — Puget Sound health experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are urging residents to get their flu shots by the end of next month to help stave off more preventable illnesses as Washington contends with its fifth surge in COVID-19 cases with hospitals already at capacity heading into fall.

At the University of Washington Medical Center, doctors cautioned Wednesday of the potential for a resurgent flu season, with kids back in the classroom and more activities taking place than this time last year.

"I am worried about a potential spike influenza, and the best thing to do to prevent that are all the other things that we're doing to prevent COVID: masking, handwashing and vaccinations," said Dr. Seth Cohen, medical director of infection prevention at UW Medical Center.

Cohen said telling the difference between a COVID-19 infection and other respiratory ailments based solely on symptoms is nearly impossible, and those who fall ill need to get tested and await results, which means time away from work or school. Getting a flu shot can help reduce that risk.

"I have completely given up on trying to predict whether somebody has COVID or another respiratory virus," Cohen said. "The overlap in symptoms is almost identical. And so, anybody who has symptoms will still need to get tested. We are very worried that as kids go back to school, we may see a rise in influenza. That's another reason both to get vaccinated for COVID, but also for influenza ... so that we minimize, you know, children developing symptoms. That way we can keep them in school, and we keep parents at work and doing their normal routine."

While flu activity may be higher this year than last, with fewer mitigation measures in place, Cohen said renewed mask mandates may still help keep infections lower than a typical year.

"I suspect, just because everybody is wearing masks, we will see lower rates of flu than we have historically," he said. "I don't know if they're going to be quite as low as last year, because now that children are back in school, we probably will see more transmission."

Many of the same pharmacies that provided COVID-19 shots are also equipped with the flu shot and offer walk-ups and appointments, including CVS, Walgreens and Bartell Drugs.

Read more about what to expect for the 2021-2022 flu season via the CDC and the Washington State Department of Health.

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