The Incoming Storm: COVID-19 and Flu Season

While Illinois at large has managed to deal with novel coronavirus outbreaks effectively when compared to most other states, the case numbers and positivity rate are starting to creep up once more. This increase may be attributed to the reopening of schools, indoor seating at restaurants, and large gatherings.

            While many students are not particularly concerned about the upsurge in infections, health experts are predicting a deadly scenario this fall and winter as influenza season emerges. If the state is not prepared for the incoming storm of viral contagion, results will be disastrous.

            According the director of IDPH, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, “Flu and COVID-19 each can cause serious respiratory illness, and co-infection could possibly lead to more severe illnesses, hospitalization, and even death.”

            As people begin to spend more time indoors with fewer restrictions, the likelihood of spreading one or both of the viruses to roommates or housemates may increase. Drier air and colder temperatures are also more conducive to virus replication and longer life on surfaces.

            It is hard to say how severe this year’s flu season will be, but the combination of contagious respiratory illnesses may result in bigger coronavirus hotspots, overcrowded hospitals, increased deaths and patients in critical condition, stricter shutdowns, closed schools and restricted travel, as well as exacerbated unemployment rates and economic complications.

            “We don’t know what someone with COVID and then on top of it…the flu, what that looks like. So we are preparing for the worst.” Michele Mazurek, Sinai Health System’s senior vice president and chief nursing officer in Chicago.

            According to the Chicago Tribune, hospitals in areas with a high rate of infection have been preparing for flu season since the apex of the first wave. In Chicago, hospital staff are enforcing flu shots for all staff members, stocking additional PPE, planning to implement drive-up flu shots or testing and neatly compartmentalizing sections of treatment areas by patients’ severity of symptoms. The goal is to avoid making the same mistakes that led to complete devastation when the virus first hit.

            Although Springfield has a moderate amount of control over case numbers for the time being, that may change very quickly as flu infections propagate. Do not become complacent, as this seems to be the eye of the hurricane. Please get a flu shot soon, wear a mask, utilize social distancing, wash hands often and disinfect frequently touched surfaces. UIS Health Services is currently offering free flu shots for UIS students and employees on campus. Attend without an appointment from Oct. 6 through Oct. 16 at the Public Affairs Center (PAC) Restaurant, near the relocated UIS Bookstore and the new Sangamon Experience exhibition space. See image for times and further information. Contact Health Services at (217) 206-6676 or [email protected].