Experts recommend COVID-19 testing to determine influenza or coronavirus

COVID-19 drive thru screening
Posted at 5:40 PM, Oct 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-15 19:35:00-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With flu season upon us, doctors are encouraging everyone to get the flu shot.

“Flu still infects a lot of people over the winter and it can kill some people so it’s a significant problem still," said Dr. Gary Salzman, Pulmonologist at Truman Medical Center.

If you can avoid catching the flu, doctors say it will help take some of the strain off of hospitals that are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If you follow the principles of infection control, and get your flu shot, you can stay safe and that’s what we need everyone to do and that’s what will keep hospitals open and able to take care of people who are sick with all types of illnesses," said Dr. Steve Stites with the University of Kansas Health System.

Between influenza and coronavirus, there can be some confusion due to similar symptoms.

“If you have fever and cough, you should stay home, you shouldn’t go to work, you shouldn’t be out in the community," Salzman said.

Fever and cough are symptoms of both the flu and COVID-19. Doctors suggest getting tested for coronavirus if you're feeling sick.

"Until we get more data about increasing influenza rates, I think we have to assume COVID-19, until we get tested and the PCR is negative and then move on from there," said Dr. Dana Hawkinson, also with the University of Kansas Health System.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the flu vaccine for everyone starting at six months old. They also suggest getting it sooner rather than later.

Doctors want to remind people that the vaccine does not give you the flu. While the vaccine isn't 100 percent effective, doctors say it does lower your risk.

“Getting the flu shot would dramatically decrease your risk from getting sick from the flu. If you do get the flu, you wouldn’t get as sick," Salzman said. "With COVID-19 now and not knowing if you get sick, which one you have, if you get the flu shot, it will at least take the flu out of the picture, and I think that’s really helpful."