Flu season is rapidly approaching. And with the COVID-19 pandemic very much still a part of life, it’s even more important to get a flu shot this year. Kodiak Public Health Nurse Elsa DeHart urged Kodiakans to get vaccinated as soon as possible. 

“The earlier we have people in the community vaccinated, the lower amount of flu we’ll see,” she said. 

Flu shots are available at Safeway, Walmart, KANA, Kodiak Community Health Center and other clinics. 

The difficulty of this year’s flu season is that flu symptoms look very similar to COVID-19 symptoms. They are both contagious respiratory illnesses, though the viruses that cause them are different. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, both cause fever or feeling feverish, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle pain or body aches, headache, and vomiting and diarrhea, though latter is more common in children than adults.

The only unique symptom of COVID-19 is loss of taste or smell. 

This presents a problem for combating both. Anyone with symptoms will need to be  tested for COVID-19. That will put a strain on testing resources. 

On top of that, the flu does seriously sicken people every year, putting them in the hospital. This decreases medical resources for anyone who has COVID-19, should Kodiak experience an outbreak. 

“That is the whole push behind getting people to get the flu shot,” DeHart said. “If we can keep the flu down, then maybe we won’t have as many people we need to rule out COVID for.” 

Another difference between COVID-19 and the flu is that the flu will usually show symptoms within one to four days of contracting the virus, the CDC says. COVID-19 rarely exhibits symptoms within 24 hours of infection. Most symptoms appear between two and five days after, but can appear as late as 14 days after infection. 

People with COVID-19 can also spread the virus for a longer period of time. People with the flu can spread it for at least a day without showing symptoms, while those with COVID-19 can spread the illness for two days before showing symptoms and are able to spread it for up to 10 days after testing positive. 

The two are spread in similar ways too. Both primarily travel through droplets created when people cough, sneeze or talk. It’s possible it can be spread on surfaces as well, the CDC says. However, COVID-19 is more contagious than the flu. 

Fortunately, the same precautions used to ward off COVID-19, such as mask wearing, social distancing and frequent hand washing, also prevent the spread of the flu. 

“What keeps COVID at bay works to keep the flu at bay,” DeHart said. 

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