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Flu, COVID-19 have 'terrific overlap' in symptoms, KDHE secretary says

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Posted at 5:46 PM, Sep 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-02 18:46:17-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Virus testing will continue to be an important part in the fight against COVID-19 as flu season approaches, Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Dr. Lee Norman said Wednesday.

Dr. Dana Hawkinson from the University of Kansas Health System joined Norman for his weekly briefing.

Norman said there is “terrific overlap” in symptoms between influenza and COVID-19.

“It will be awfully hard to look at, talk to and examine patient who’s ill and say, without further testing, ‘Now, this is influenza. This is clearly COVID-19,’ Norman said.

Norman said tests have been developed and are in use that are able to screen for influenza A and B, as well as COVID-19.

Hawkinson said at KU Health System, there will be a multiplex test, as they’re called, which tests for two types of influenza, COVID-19 and RSV.

As far as results, he said “turnaround times are going to be different depending on what platform we're using.”

Norman said such tests are in short supply.

“The worst case scenario, obviously, is if we have a lot of influenza, and a lot of COVID-19, and I don't — I don't have a crystal ball,” Norman said.

Hawkinson noted a recent scientific article about the flu season in the southern hemisphere, where some countries have seen a decrease in influenza case rates.

Hawkinson said he hopes the measures put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as hand hygiene, social distancing and masking, will also “cut down immensely” on the flu season in the northern hemisphere as it transitions to winter.

Earlier Wednesday, a group of chief medical officers from the Kansas City region voiced their concerns about flu season and the potential stressors it will place on hospitals during the pandemic, especially with decreased bed capacity.