Before 2020 the word twindemic had no place In the American lexicon. But as the country has entered flu season, it’s one health officials are warning people they need to avoid consequences of it.
Twindemic is when someone gets COVID-19 and the flu at the same time. This hasn’t become a serious problem yet, but Brandie Combs with the Oklahoma State Health Department wants to make sure it doesn’t.
“This year is more important than ever that people get their flu shots just simply because flu is a respiratory illness and COVID is a respiratory illness and you can have both at the same time and that’s not going to be a good combination for anyone,” Combs said.
Nationally, the flu by itself has proven to be a deadly virus, causing between 140,000 and 810,000 estimated hospitalizations and between 12,000 and 61,000 deaths each year since 2010, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
But because the flu and COVID-19 have similar symptoms and could require similar treatments, the flu could strain resources are being used to fight COVID-19.
“It’s to protect the individual, but from a public health perspective, it’s to protect our healthcare system,” said Combs. “So, if we can prevent any sort of illness, whether it’s COVID, or flu, or strep, whatever it may be, we need to do our very best to prevent that so that our hospitals and doctor’s offices aren’t stretched too far where they can’t meet the need of the community.”
As the medical community began to learn more about what COVID-19 was and its effect on people, health officials sent out warnings about this year’s flu season. As the fall and winter months got closer, those warnings began to get louder.
There was a concern that a percentage of residents would not go get the flu shot either out of fear or just because they had never gotten it before.
“It appears that people are still going out and getting flu shots,” Combs said. “Our focus has been split this year to where we have been able to do big drive-thru flu clinics out in the community. We’ve done that, but we haven’t done it to the extent that we would like simply because we have to continue to address COVID.”
Flu shots are available at not only the health department facilities, but also hospitals, Walgreens, CVS, Walmart and local pharmacies.
Because of that, Combs is unable to give specific data on if the same amount of people at this time of the year have gotten the shot compared to past years.
Combs did say southwest Oklahoma is under its normal level for flu hospitalizations. As of Nov. 15, they’ve had 39 hospitalizations that are associated with the flu.
“We’ve not had any deaths associated with flu, so that we’re obviously thankful for,” Combs said.