Here’s what doctors are saying about being co-infected with COVID-19 and the flu

MADISON, Wis. — As flu season approaches, Dr. Jeff Pothof at UW Health said he is concerned about the influx of hospitalizations that may occur with those needing medical treatment for the flu and COVID.

“We are not sure how people are going to do if they happen to get co-infected with COVID-19 and influenza. That would really stack the deck against them,” he said. “Every fall we typically see a huge influx of patients who require hospitalization because they have influenza and if we have that happen again in the setting of increased COVID-19 spread, you are playing with fire a little bit as far as it goes to hospital capacity and hospital ability to manage the needs of the community.”

Similar to how health officials been preaching to wear a mask and practice social distancing, now they’re adding getting your flu shot to that list.

Pothoff said there will be robust efforts to make the vaccine widely available this year including pop up clinics, drive thru options and even community involvement to make the vaccine available.

“I think there’s a lot of preconceived notions about the flu shot,” Pothof said. “Some people don’t think they work at all, some people think they give them the flu. There’s these stories out there that dissuade people from getting it. But if you look at the population as a whole, the flu shot is extremely safe, its fairly effective and this year we just need to get out and get those flu shots. It’s for our own benefit and the benefit of our community.”

The CDC estimates that since 2010, between 12,000 and 61,000 people died from the flu each year. The numbers vary based on what other viruses are circulating, the timing of the season and how many people get vaccinated.

“It is more important than any other year for everyone to go out and get a flu shot,” Pothof said.

Flu shots are available now at Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, Walmart and other pharmacies. Most flu shots can be done by walk-in or scheduled appointments at no cost with proof of insurance.

Hy-Vee locations are also offering drive-up flu clinics on Mondays from 7 a.m. – 11 a.m., Thursdays from 3 p.m.- 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.