How to prepare for flu season during COVID-19
Hospitals in Delaware and nationwide are preparing for another winter with COVID-19 – the first that's also expected to be paired with high levels of influenza and other respiratory illnesses resigned to the background the past two years.
We sat down with the Delaware Division of Public Health’s Medical Director Dr. Rick Hong this week to discuss concerns about COVID-19 and the flu this winter – and how to best protect yourself.
With the flu season upon us, and COVID-19 still hanging around, state health officials are concerned about the winter ahead.
The worry is that large COVID-19 outbreaks could be paired with high levels of influenza and other respiratory diseases that haven’t been prevalent in the past couple of years.
Just in Delaware alone, the flu has been confirmed in all three counties already, and the Delaware Division of Public Health’s Medical Director Dr. Rick Hong says the actual numbers are likely higher.
"The numbers are definitely higher than I would like to see. It's not just within the state but also nationally. We've had pretty mild flu seasons in the past, but again with everything going on with COVID-19 any question control measures that were in place I'm not surprised that flu cases were low. So it's looking concerning but there's always an opportunity to start enacting certain measures,” said Dr. Hong. “Again, the flu vaccine is out there available. Please get it as soon as possible, and I think we still have a chance to make this not so bad."
There’s also a concern the higher flu numbers will mix with COVID-19 spikes we’ve seen the last two winters, putting more stress on hospitals. And officials worry with COVID-19 protocols relaxed and booster numbers among the youth low it could cause problems, especially in schools.
Delaware Division of Public Health interim director Dr. Rick Hong says one way to help is get kids the most recent updated booster.
"COVID-19 is still out there, and we don't want to go backwards. So having the updated booster is critical. Good news is that the CDC and FDA both have authorized the use of the bivalent boosters for kids five years and above. So that's good news that more of the population will have access to the bivalent booster," said Dr. Hong.
Dr. Hong notes while the overall COVID-19 numbers are positive in Delaware right now with so many people taking home tests the numbers might not be completely accurate, but that hospitalizations and number of deaths are trending in the right direction.
He adds you can get your COVID-19 booster along with your flu shot at the same time, although it’s best to get them in different arms.