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B.C. doctor urges vaccines as ‘resurgence’ in flu expected to coincide with 4th COVID wave

After almost no influenza last year, flu season is expected to be severe this fall and winter
FILE – People wear masks as they pass a pharmacy offering flu shots in downtown Calgary, Alta., Friday, Oct. 30, 2020, amid a worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

An emergency room doctor is encouraging British Columbians to take influenza serious this year, as the flu season seems set to hit amid the pandemic’s fourth wave.

After a nearly nonexistent flu season last year, at least partially due to measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, many experts are predicting that this year’s could be severe.

Dr. Michael Curry said that if someone got sick last year, it was very likely they had COVID-19, whether or not they got tested.

“This year, the big change I have seen is the re-emergence of our ‘usual suspect’ respiratory infections,” which include the common cold and soon the flu.

“A bad flu season can rapidly fill up emergency departments and hospital beds, and as we all know, COVID-19 is already doing a good job at that,” Curry, who is also a clinical associate professor at the University of B.C., said.

Last year saw a record-breaking number of people got immunized against the flu, with more than one million shots doled out by pharmacists. This year, Curry hopes to see similar turnout.

“Take the same precautions you are already taking for COVID-19: stay home when sick, wash your hands, cough into your sleeve, wear masks in public areas, and get immunized.”

For individuals getting their first, second or third dose of a COVID vaccine this fall, there’s no concern that getting both that and the flu shot together will do any harm or cause an immunization to not work as well.

If you do get sick, the flu and COVID can be hard to tell apart. Curry said that in either case, people having trouble breathing, feeling short of breath at rest or getting confused should seek medical care immediately. The flu, he added, kills thousands of people in Canada each year.

Curry noted that while there’s been some concern that germ-avoidance measures over the past year could make people more susceptible to germs, that’s not the case.

“COVID-19 public health measures have had a secondary effect of suppressing the spread and adaptation of other respiratory viruses,” he said.

“Fewer cases equate to less evolution of those viruses, which means your body’s immune system is more likely to be familiar with that virus and better able to fight it off.”

READ MORE: After 30,000 tests, influenza virtually nowhere to be found in B.C.


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