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Prevention is key during flu season

FAIRMONT — Fall is here and with it, flu season returns. While last year’s flu numbers were low, experts are predicting that with the absence of many Covid precautions, this flu season could see a spike in cases.

Dr. Tim Slama, a family medicine physician with Mayo-Fairmont, said that last year was an anomoly.

“We did not see any cases locally and across the U.S there were very few cases compared to other years. It showed the importance of socially distancing and wearing a mask. Things people were doing because of Covid really impacted influenza numbers,” said Slama.

This year, experts are anticipating a bad year for the flu and Slama said they’re prepared for that. He said they’ve already seen some positive cases locally.

“People are out and about visiting with less social distancing and less mask-wearing so we’re expecting the viruses to come back,” Slama said.

He said they’ve already seen cases of RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) and have had some children hospitalized locally with RSV.

Slama clarified what influenza is.

“Flu is the common term. People get confused because there’s respiratory flu and the stomach flu. Stomach flu is nausea, diarrhea, throwing up. A bug that went through you. The respiratory flu is influenza. That brings fever, chills, body ache and a cough,” Slama said.

While the stomach flu doesn’t have an immunization for it, influenza has the flu shot.

“The best thing you can do to prevent influenza is to get the flu shot. They try to predict each year what strains will be in it,” Slama said.

He said some people who get the flu shot might still get sick, but he said they won’t have a severe case or be sick for as long.

Slama said he would recommend everyone ages six months and up to get the flu shot, but said the elderly, infants and toddlers get the most sick from influenza.

“It’s different from Covid where the kids hardly show any symptoms, with influenza they definitely do,” Slama said.

Speaking of Covid, Slama said it will be difficult to differentiate whether symptoms qualify for Covid or influenza.

“That’s why we want people to get their Covid shot and their flu shot. It’s will be hard for everyone to know if it’s Covid or flu,” he said.

For the flu, Slama said they often see body aches, chill, fever and a cough. For Covid, a cough will be present, accompanied with shortness of breath. He said loss of taste and smell could also be a sign of Covid.

Slama said if someone comes in with symptoms of cough, body aches and a fever, they’ll likely get tested for both Covid and influenza.

He said that in addition to getting the flu shot, people should remember to wash their hands, stay home if they’re feeling sick and to cover their cough.

Mayo Clinic Health System will begin offering the flu shot starting Oct. 18.

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