'Influenza still kills': Riverside County officials fear possible COVID resurgence, flu season will happen simultaneously

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- Riverside County public health officials are urging residents to get flu shots, fearing the potential for hospitals to be overwhelmed if a resurgence of COVID-19 cases coincides with the height of flu season.

"While COVID-19 is clearly more dangerous than influenza, influenza still kills, as was the case with our first death this flu season, a man in his 80s in the San Jacinto Valley," said Riverside County Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser.

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Riverside County health officials say there's ample supply of flu vaccines this year, as health experts have anticipated high demand. The flu vaccine is a quadrivalent vaccine, meaning it has strains of four types of influenza that health officials predict will be the most common.

Dr. Kaiser said even though flu vaccines are not 100% effective, they are still extremely beneficial.

"Let's take a really lousy year for the flu vaccine where it turns out the effectiveness is only 10%. Even with a vaccine that badly matched, that still means a real world 10% reduction in your chances of getting the flu just by getting the shot," he said. "And in most years, we're talking about (effectiveness) numbers several times that."

Health officials also discussed the possibility of more patients being hospitalized than a typical flu season, because people who are showing flu-like symptoms fear they may be infected with COVID-19.

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With people so focused on keeping coronavirus at bay, many health officials are worried people will forget about getting a flu shot.


Dr. Ronald McCowan at Riverside University Health Medical Center said symptoms of flu typically include fatigue, fever, chest congestion with cough and muscle aches. They may progress to bronchitis, pneumonia, ear infections and dehydration.

As for COVID-19, the symptoms can be more unique.

"There are greater incidents of loss of smell, taste and more shortness of breath than the flu," said Dr. McCowan.

Some public health experts are hoping that the flu season might be milder than usual, because there could be a higher number of people getting flu shots. It's also possible that health practices put into place because of the COVID-19 can help keep flu cases low.

"Fortunately, what works for COVID-19 also works for the flu," said Dr. Kaiser. "Wear a facial covering; maintain social distance; don't hang around sick people."

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