Autumn has officially arrived on the calendar, and we are steadily approaching the last few months of the year. Fall is the time of year we generally label as the beginning of influenza (flu) season. However, one of the many things COVID-19 has taught us, is that there is no “season” when it comes to an epidemic.
For example, while we typically do not start seeing flu cases until well into October, the state of Ohio began seeing cases several weeks ago. Flu cases, in addition to this current wave of COVID-19 cases, pose an even more serious threat in maintaining the health and safety of our community.
Both flu and COVID-19 are contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. They can be spread from person-to-person between those who are in close contact with one another. Both are spread mainly by large and small particles containing virus that are expelled when people with the illness (COVID-19 or flu) cough, sneeze, or talk. Although most spread is by inhalation, it may be possible that a person can get infected by touching (for example, shaking hands with someone who has the virus on their hands) or by touching a surface or object that has virus on it, and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes.
The nature by which both COVID-19 and the flu are spread is what makes this time of year, marked by cooler temperatures and less daylight, much riskier, as we spend much more time indoors with other people.
There is data gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that shows unusually low activity in regard to the flu last year. The CDC suggests COVID-19 mitigation measures such as wearing face masks, staying home, hand washing, school closures, reduced travel, increased ventilation of indoor spaces and physical distancing, likely contributed to the decline in 2020-2021 flu incidence, hospitalizations and deaths.
Despite those welcomed observations from a year ago, we, unfortunately, find ourselves in a different mindset now. Earlier this year, COVID-19 numbers were much lower and with that we saw a relaxation of mask protocols and other recommended health and safety guidelines throughout the states and communities in which we reside.
Collectively, we will need to, once again, put prevention at the forefront of our thoughts, and follow up with action. It is so important that we are diligent in practicing the effective measures that mitigate the spread of illness. I recommend wearing a mask all throughout this fall and winter months, as well as continuing to social distance, washing hands or using hand sanitizer frequently and avoiding large crowds.
Additionally, last month, I talked about my decision to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Much like the COVID-19 vaccine, I also encourage everyone to get their flu shot at their earliest opportunity.
Whatever we can do as individuals to remain as healthy as possible will go a long way in protecting not only yourself and loved ones, but others within the community (especially the elderly, immunocompromised and youth) from the risk of transmitting the flu and/or COVID-19.
I know we are all anxious to get back to “normal.” So, let’s all work together to make that happen.
We’re here for you.
President & CEO
Blanchard Valley Health System