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Health officials encouraging flu shot; possibility of co-infection with COVID-19

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Flu season starts soon, further complicating the COVID-19 crisis. Local health leaders have several concerns for patients and the health care system.

Health officials say hospitals could see double the number of patients in the emergency room, utilizing intensive care beds and ventilators. The Marion County Health Department is getting ready for a major campaign to kick off in mid-September to encourage flu shots.

Dr. Virginia Caine is the director of the Marion County Health Department. She says both respiratory illnesses have very similar symptoms and it’s possible to get a co-infection. This means you could have both COVID-19 and Influenza at the same time. Dr. Caine says the percentage is pretty low, but the pandemic began at the tail end of flu season this year.

The health department is talking with hospitals, primary care physicians, community health clinics and the Indianapolis Medical Society about pushing the vaccine. Dr. Caine said the vaccine is especially important in teenagers. After the H1N1 epidemic in 2009, more cases of Influenza were found in young adults and even deaths.

“Parents please try to protect your child and get them immunized,” Dr. Caine said. “We also have to remember we have pregnant mothers who have newborn babies. Babies can always get that flu shot up to six months. You have to be six months and older. You want to protect anyone that is in the home.”

The longtime medical professional says there are between 30,000 and 40,000 deaths related to Influenza every year. Some years it’s been as high as 60,000. There’s a bigger worry for those with compromised immune systems and adults 65 and older.

The health department is sending a letter to all Marion County schools, both public and private, about getting the vaccine. Dr. Caine says some pharmaceutical companies have already started to offer the flu shot. A majority of healthcare physicians will start offering the vaccine mid-September or later.

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