Healthy habits urged during COVID-19 also help prevent spread of flu

Posted at 4:57 PM, Nov 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-17 10:48:17-05

COLLEGE STATION, TX — For the second time this year, health professionals are warning us about the spread of the flu and COVID-19, two very similar viruses proven to be fatal in some cases.

“We do also know that flu and COVID-19 do coexist. We’ve seen that. We saw that this past spring, and we have seen that elsewhere,” said Dr. Seth Sullivan, Brazos County Alternate Health Authority.

The Brazos County Health District reports from October 1 to November 7, Brazos County has seen less than half of the number of flu cases compared to 2019, with only 229 cases thus far.

“We expect flu to be here. It always comes, it's just a matter of when,” said Dr. Sullivan.

While we are still early into the flu season, public health officials attribute the lower number of cases to much of the social behaviors adopted thanks to COVID-19.

“These are all things that we have been asked to do in previous flu seasons, and so in trying to protect ourselves from COVID-19 and engaging in these behaviors, we have also managed to be somewhat protected against influenza,” said Dr. Angela Clendenin, Asst. Professor Epidemiology & Biostatistics with TAMU School of Public Health.

While wearing a mask is the utmost important way to protect from the novel coronavirus, Dr. Clendenin says they also prevent the spread of influenza droplets. It's one behavior public health officials have suggested for years to combat the transmission of the flu.

“It takes all of us agreeing and working together to engage in those behaviors to stop transmission because until we can strop transmission, we can’t stop the disease and that works with flu or with COVID,” said Dr. Clendenin.

Dr. Clendenin says it's important to not forget how severe the flu can be even without COVID-19 concerns, with the 2013-2014 flu season epidemic being a prime example. She says this flu season highlights the importance of healthy habits for more than just COVID-19.

“The flu can still be severe and it can still lead to hospitalizations and it can still lead to fatalities. So, the fact that we have been spending all of our time since March talking about good hygiene, wearing masks, and maintaining distance from one another and how that’s helped us seemingly reduced the number of cases of influenza this year is a very good thing,” said Dr. Clendenin.