MARIN COUNTY, CA –officials are urging residents to get a flu shot this season amid the coronavirus pandemic.
There is no vaccine for, but there is one for seasonal influenza. Doctors with Marin County Public Health are working to prevent a local "twindemic" of COVID-19 and regular flu cases by asking everyone to get a flu shot.
"Every flu season, intensive care units across Marin are substantially impacted by people seriously ill with influenza," said Dr. Matt Willis, the county's public health officer.
"If you're eager to put the pandemic behind us, we urge you to get a flu shot to reduce the chances of influenza crossing paths with COVID-19. Managing surges in both illnesses would over-burden an already taxed healthcare system."
The flu shot recommendation is more urgent than in past years, health officials said, especially as Marin and other Bay Area counties settle into gradual and cautious reopening plans that result in more human mingling.
The typical flu season is between October and May. The county tracks flu activity by analyzing laboratory testing data and visits to local emergency departments for flu-like illness. Health officials produce a monthly influenza surveillance report that summarizes local activity and has links to statewide and national flu activity.
"With more Marin schools reopening campuses soon for in-person learning, it's imperative to immunize children before in-classroom instruction begins," Willis said.
This year the percentage of children up-to-date on immunizations has fallen statewide as parents delay routine visits to pediatricians during the pandemic, according to the county.
"Your child's annual flu shot visit is the perfect time to catch up on other required vaccinations," Willis said. "This is not the year to skip or delay immunizations."
Flu activity usually increases in late November and December in California. It takes a couple of weeks after a flu shot for the body to build an immunity, which is why September through early November is a critical period for seasonal flu vaccinations, health officials said.
The seasonal flu and COVID-19 can exhibit some of the same symptoms, including fever, cough, body aches and chills. In addition to getting a flu shot, officials said residents should take the following preventive actions to stop the spread of germs:
Wear a face covering.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
Stay away from people who are sick.
Stay home when you or your child are sick for at least 24 hours after symptoms go away.
Wash hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water.
When washing hands isn't an option, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Cough or sneeze into a tissue or, if one isn't available, into your elbow.
Use hand sanitizer or wash hands after coughing or sneezing.
For people with medical insurance, flu shots are free as a preventive service at doctors' offices and most retail pharmacies, including, , , and . Those without health insurance can obtain free or low-cost flu shots through local community clinics.