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Health Officials Warn of Dual Surge of Illness as Flu and COVID-19 Collide

Sneezing and fever are symptoms of the flu.

Public health officials are warning about what they call a possible “dual surge” of illness as the influenza season collides into the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gillette Children’s is boosting efforts to make sure children who are medically fragile get a flu vaccination. Gillette is offering free flu shots for patients and family members during clinic visits. If you'd like to receive a flu shot please talk to a Gillette health care provider during your appointment. 

Flu Sneezing Graphic

“It’s very crucial for children to be vaccinated against influenza,” says Madeleine Gagon, MD, the associate medical director of pediatrics at Gillette. “With the flu and COVID-19 in our environment this is a very serious problem and we must take measures to keep ourselves and our children safe.”

“Children with underlying lung problems and low muscle tone have an even more challenging time fighting the flu. So it’s especially important for these children to get a flu vaccine,” Gagnon adds.

Unchartered territory with COVID-19 and the flu season

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend everyone six months of age or older get a flu shot every year. The CDC recommends people get a flu vaccination in September or October, before the start of the flu season.

Gagnon says influenza and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses but they are caused by different viruses. “The symptoms of the flu and COVID-19 are similar and it is crucial for patients to get proper testing and a diagnosis so health providers can give the correct supportive care. “

“We’re in uncharted territory now with COVID-19 and the start of the flu season,” Gagnon warns.

Uncharted territory

Getting a flu shot will not provide any extra protection against COVID-19.  But being immunized can reduce the risk of having a strong case of the flu and needing to be hospitalized. According to the CDC, “a flu vaccine may also reduce the overall burden of respiratory illness.”

The CDC says vaccine manufacturers project they will supply more than 20 million more doses of the vaccine this flu season than they did last year, for a total of nearly 200 million doses.

While not 100 percent foolproof, a flu vaccination is still the best protection against a serious case of influenza. Mask wearing, hand-washing, avoiding close contact (if possible) with those who are sick can help protect you from illness.

As flu season prepares to collide with the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors are stressing the importance of getting your flu shot. Dr. Madeleine Gagnon from Gillette Children's joined KMSP-TV to explain why kids in particular should get vaccinated.

Please be sure to ask a Gillette health care provider for your free flu shot during your clinic appointment.