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Buckle up - ask your doctor for a flu shot!

In addition to the intensifying coronavirus pandemic following the summer, seasonal influenza arrives with the autumn and winter months. In the past year, more than 39 million people have been infected by seasonal influenza. The big question this year is what this period will look like when seasonal influenza and the coronavirus affect the population at the same time. Vaccination against influenza - like a seatbelt that keeps us safe during travel - protects us from the most common winter virus to date, or at least alleviates the course of the infection.

What do we know about the two viruses?

Seasonal influenza appears in the autumn and winter months, during which the presence of the coronavirus is also to be reckoned with. Both viruses cause respiratory disease and spread via droplet infection. Influenza has a mortality rate of between 0.1% and 0.5%, and deaths from the coronavirus are around 3% worldwide.

This year’s big question is what kind of flu epidemic can we expect when the two viruses mix?

It is difficult to predict how severe a given flu season will be as different types of influenza viruses mutate every year, and this season the WHO recommends that three components of the vaccine should also be changed. In addition, the second wave of the coronavirus epidemic is taking place in Hungary, with a growing number of patients identified each day and more and more people receiving hospital care and in need of a ventilator. Unfortunately, there may also be concurrent infections of the two viruses, possibly producing strong symptoms.

How can we distinguish between the two viruses?

Since upper respiratory tract symptoms are very similar, except for the sudden loss of taste and smell characteristic of COVID-19, it is only by performing a coronavirus test that it becomes clear whether it is causing the disease. Patients vaccinated against influenza have an easier early diagnosis because the most common other pathologies can be ruled out.

How to prepare for the flu during the coronavirus epidemic?

In the autumn and winter months, we should expect the combined presence of seasonal influenza with the coronavirus. Due to the similarity of symptoms, it is important to stay at home with a fever and flu-like symptoms, and if necessary, talk to your doctor and follow their instructions.

During the coronavirus pandemic it is in the interest of all of us that as many people as possible are vaccinated against influenza, even those who don't usually get vaccinated. In addition to vaccination, support the functioning of the immune system with a healthy diet, adequate fluid intake, regular exercise and rest, and sufficient vitamins. Continue to protect against the coronavirus by wearing a face mask when in the community, washing hands and disinfecting regularly, observing the recommended social distance rules and avoiding crowds and any contact with sick people.

Prevent the spread of the viruses

The good news is that by protecting yourself from the coronavirus, you can also protect yourself from seasonal influenza, as the coronavirus, just like the flu, spreads through droplet infection, close contact and infected surfaces. Droplet infection occurs when pathogens that become airborne from the coughing or sneezing of an infected (even asymptomatic) person, find their way into the nose or mouth of another person nearby. Another possible method of transmission is if, after touching surfaces or objects contaminated with saliva droplets or respiratory agents containing the pathogen, we then touch our own nose, mouth or eyes.

To prevent viral infection:

  • wear a face mask covering your mouth and nose in the community
  • observe social distancing rules, avoid crowds
  • wash hands frequently with soap or else use hand sanitizer
  • avoid touching your face, eating and drinking before washing your hands
  • if you're ill, stay at home and avoid sick people
  • if you cough or sneeze, use a paper handkerchief and dispose of it

More than ever the world's leading professional organizations recommend a seasonal flu shot. In the evaluation of very similar symptoms, by fending off influenza we make it easier to make a diagnosis. Vaccination can also help us avoid the dangerous period 2-3 weeks after a flu infection when reduced defenses leaves us more susceptible to further infections!

Vaccines are available through GP services, with the highest risk applicants being given priority.