Can I get the flu and COVID-10 at the same time? How should I recognize the symptoms and what medications should I take? These are the most common questions that bother people these days.
We have about one of the most difficult flu seasons ahead of us, and many people are worried about whether they can tell when it’s just a cold, the flu and when it’s a coronavirus. The Public Health Office and the Chief Hygienist of the Slovak Republic, Ján Mikas, explain the most important things you should know.
The flu season officially began in the northern hemisphere on October 1 and lasts until the end of April of the following year (from the 40th calendar week of the current year to the 18th calendar week of the following year). Its course will be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The flu season has started, what does this mean for me in the current situation?
This is a period when epidemiologists anticipate a gradual increase in influenza and influenza-like illness. Influenza activity increases during about December and grows into an epidemic, mostly at the turn of January and February. Influenza is caused by the flu virus, which has several types and subtypes.
Influenza-like illnesses are caused by adenoviruses, rhinoviruses, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) or Mycoplasma pneumoniae. Influenza and influenza-like illnesses are respiratory infections that have similar symptoms to COVID-19. And that will complicate the situation.
How can I protect myself from flu and COVID-19?
You can protect yourself very easily and effectively by following the principle of ROR (hand-gap / hand-disinfection). Properly fitted drapes on the face (covered mouths and nostrils) prevent a large number of droplets from getting into the environment, through which the flu and COVID-19 spread during coughing, sneezing, talking and even when exhaling air.
Also, maintaining a sufficient distance of at least two meters from other people significantly reduces the risk of the virus droplets reaching you directly. Frequent washing of hands with soap and warm water and disinfection of hands with alcohol-based products destroys viruses that have settled on the skin by contact with contaminated objects – such as public transport holders, shopping baskets, handles, etc. Do not touch your face, mouth or eyes with your dirty hands – for example, the virus can enter the body through the conjunctiva.
Avoid places with a higher concentration of people. If this is not possible, stay there only for the necessary time. At home and in the workplace, regularly disinfect surfaces, work surfaces and utensils with viruidal cleaning agents. Make sure that the rooms are well and regularly ventilated.
Can flu and COVID-19 be identified by symptoms?
This is usually not possible. Although influenza and COVID-19 are caused by different viruses, the symptoms of both diseases are largely similar: fever above 38 ° C, dry, irritating cough (in COVID-19 also difficulty breathing), general fatigue, weakness. Of the others sometimes rhinitis, sore throat.
Somewhat different symptoms are headache, joint and muscle pain (severe in influenza, sometimes present in COVID-19). Diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting do not occur in influenza, sometimes in COVID-19, similar to olfactory loss, which are rare in children and people over 65 years of age. The definitive answer as to whether a person has influenza or COVID-19 can only be given by a laboratory examination of a clinical sample taken from a patient.
What should I do if I have the above symptoms?
If you experience symptoms of respiratory illness, do not go to work or visit public places. Sick children should not be at school or with grandparents who are a risk group. Isolate yourself from others. When coughing, cover your mouth and nose with a disposable tissue and not with your palm, then throw the used tissue in the trash.
Do not see your doctor in person without notice. Contact him by phone in advance and inform him about your health condition, including epidemiological and travel history. Your doctor will determine the procedure for diagnosing the disease and treating it. Follow his instructions, as the clinical condition of the disease may be complicated without treatment and medical supervision.
In the event of an emergency, call 155 directly and inform the dispatcher that you may have COVID-19.
What health complications can flu or COVID-19 cause me?
Neither influenza nor COVID-19 are trivial diseases. Both can have a difficult course, cause serious health complications, lead to permanent health consequences and even cause death.
Diseases can lead to, for example, pneumonia, respiratory failure or inflammatory heart disease. Patients may experience worsening of chronic health problems as a result of a viral infection or they may be affected by acute respiratory distress syndrome.
When is a person infectious and at risk of infecting people around them?
Both the influenza virus and the new coronavirus can be transmitted from person to person before the first symptoms of the disease appear in the infected person. In the case of influenza, the risk of spreading the disease is usually highest for the first five to seven days after a person shows signs of the disease. However, it can also be infectious one day before the symptoms.
In the case of a new coronavirus, it is much more difficult to determine the time of infectivity in humans. People are infectious, even if they have no symptoms. However, if we are to generalize, in most cases a person is contagious two days before the symptoms of the disease, and the infection can spread at least ten days after the first symptoms of COVID-19 appear. However, patients with severe COVID-19 may be infectious for longer.
Is it possible to have COVID-19 flu at the same time?
Yes. Disease with one virus even increases the likelihood of infection with another infectious disease, whether viral or bacterial. The weakened organism is more susceptible to further infections. The concomitant course of influenza and COVID-19 can significantly worsen your health.
How are these diseases treated?
The treatment of both diseases is primarily symptomatic, which means that it consists in alleviating the symptoms. Patients may take medicines that lower their temperature, relieve coughs, headaches and joint pain, or suppress airway inflammation. Even in the case of a mild course of COVID-19 and influenza, we strongly recommend staying at home and “curing” the disease.
The ideal solution for a sick family member is a separate room and minimal contacts with others. If this is not possible, each member of the family should do their utmost to prevent any transmission of the disease. In case of necessary contact, wear a veil on your face.
Ventilate rooms frequently and abruptly. Disinfect handles, surfaces and objects that you normally use more often with products containing chlorine or alcohol. Use disposable paper and wet wipes. Each member of the family should have their own towel. Also your own plate, glasses or cutlery.
In more severe cases, antivirals are used for treatment, ie medicines that prevent the multiplication of viruses and thus shorten the duration of the infection. For COVID-19, supportive care and remdesivir are currently used as antiviral drugs. Antibiotics are ineffective against viral diseases such as influenza and COVID-19. It is important to use them when a bacterial infection is associated with a viral disease.
Is there a vaccination against COVID-19?
An effective and safe vaccine against COVID-19 does not yet exist. Several scientific teams are currently working on vaccine development. It is tentatively expected that the vaccine may be available in 2021.
Will the flu vaccine protect me from COVID-19?
No, because they are two different viruses. However, vaccination against influenza will significantly reduce the risk of having COVID-19 flu at the same time – the simultaneous course of both diseases can significantly worsen your health. Influenza vaccination can also help doctors diagnose the disease. If you have had it and still get sick, it may be more likely that you have COVID-19.
There is enough time for flu vaccinations during the autumn, it is possible to get vaccinated during October and November. The body thus manages to build up a protective level of antibodies before the increased activity of influenza and influenza-like illness, which usually starts in mid-December. Protective levels of antibodies are formed about 10 to 14 days after vaccination. You should not experience flu and cold symptoms before vaccination.
Who do we recommend flu shots?
Priority risk groups – seniors, people with chronic diseases, people with weakened immunity and pregnant women. We also recommend it to people with a higher risk of infection or the spread of the disease at work, such as health professionals or employees of social services.
How else can I support the body’s defenses during the flu season?
Increased intake of vitamins A, C, E and most vitamins from the group B – complex, vitamin D to support immunity. You get them by consuming enough fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
It is best to choose species rich in vitamin C – peppers, horseradish, citrus fruits, kiwi, green berries, kale, cabbage. Take care of your daily stay in the fresh air, it will also help you get enough sleep and hardening. Dress appropriately for the weather.
Remember that a properly fitted drape is also a very effective protection. Unfortunately, there is still various misinformation circulating in society that we should not believe. You can see what it is about in our video: