The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is urging Californians to get the influenza (flu) vaccine to protect their health, and the health of others, during this flu season. This year, preventing the flu is more important than ever because of COVID-19. Flu usually peaks between December and February, but it can spread as late as May. While influenza activity is currently low, the worst of the season could still be ahead.
“A bad flu season combined with high numbers of COVID-19 cases will put additional strain on our healthcare system that is already on the path to being overwhelmed and understaffed very soon,” said Dr. Erica Pan, Acting State Public Health Officer. “Flu isn’t just a winter cold, it is a very contagious virus that can be deadly. There is still time to get your annual flu shot and prevent this serious illness.”
During the 2019-20 flu season, nearly 62,000 Americans died from flu or flu-related complications. Many of those who died had health conditions that increased their risk. The first influenza-related pediatric death for the 2020-21 flu season has been reported to CDPH. The death occurred in Placer County and serves as another somber reminder that influenza can cause serious illness or death, even in children.
CDPH recommends the annual flu vaccination for everyone six months of age and older. While anyone can get the flu, pregnant women, children under five, adults 65 years of age and older, and people with chronic conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes and asthma are particularly at risk for more severe disease. Flu vaccinations are needed every year to maintain the greatest protection because the vaccine changes each year to match circulating viruses and annual vaccination boosts immunity.
“Many of us have learned during this pandemic that we are all interconnected. Getting vaccinated is a simple action to protect our individual and community health,” said Pan.
Like wearing a mask and social distancing, getting a flu shot is an easy way to help you and your family stay healthy during the pandemic. Flu and COVID-19 share similar symptoms (e.g., fever, cough, fatigue, difficulty breathing, headaches, muscle pain, etc.). The only way to tell the flu and COVID-19 apart is with testing.
Flu shots are safe and effective. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, getting a flu shot could save your life and protect your loved ones. For more information about the flu, visit www.cdph.ca.gov.