Despite an unusually quiet flu season last year, Wyoming residents should still get their flu shot to make sure they are adequately protected against influenza this season, the Wyoming Department of Health said Tuesday.
“As the next flu season begins, we know the flu shots remain the first and most important step in influenza protection,” Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and epidemiologist with WDH, said in a statement. “Flu vaccines are safe and reduce illness, hospitalizations and deaths. Everyone six months of age and older should receive a flu shot.”
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to surge, but the WDH has already received sporadic reports of influenza from around the state.
“Reported flu activity was unusually low over the past flu season,” Harrist continued. “Looking back, it appears the precautions intended to slow the spread of COVID-19 also likely reduced the impact of influenza significantly. People were not traveling as much, they weren’t socializing as frequently, they were often wearing masks and they were taking extra care with measures such as handwashing and cleaning.”
But with restrictions lifted and a new flu season underway, WDH anticipates influenza to pose a threat to Wyoming residents while COVID-19 continues to circulate and strain healthcare systems across Wyoming.
Flu symptoms can come on suddenly with several of them similar to symptoms associated with COVID-19. Residents who come down with the flu can suffer from fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache, extreme tiredness, and muscle or body aches, per WDH.
Both influenza and COVID-19 can result in serious illness, especially in residents who have health conditions that put them at higher risk, WDH says, which is one reason why testing is helpful where the results can help guide treatment and care.”
Some testing options, including tests run through the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory, can detect either influenza or COVID-19 from the same sample, per WDH.
Vulnerable populations- such as young children, pregnant women, or residents with chronic health conditions like asthma or diabetes- should receive a flu vaccine. Flu vaccines are considered safe to receive at the same time as a COVID-19 vaccine, including the recently authorized booster doses, WDH says.
Harrist advised that it takes about two weeks after receiving the flu vaccine for it to offer protection.
“The best strategy is to get your flu shot before people around you are ill,” she said in a statement.