As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches toward the traditional flu season, a Collin County official has said the upcoming flu season yields more concern.
Epidemiologist Aisha Souri, the county’s flu surveillance coordinator, said implementing control measures to limit the spread of respiratory illness is important in order to protect vulnerable populations and to avoid overwhelming the health care system.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19, such as stay-at-home orders, have resulted in a reduction in using routine medical preventative services such as immunization services, Souri said. However, she said ensuring that routine vaccinations are maintained or reinitiated in the midst of the global pandemic is essential.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, reducing the overall burden of respiratory illnesses is important to protect vulnerable populations at risk for severe illness, the healthcare system and other critical infrastructure,” she said.
Added to the season’s implications is that COVID-19 and influenza share similar symptoms.
Individuals should get vaccinated as early as September, Souri said, and healthcare providers should take every opportunity during the season to give vaccinations to those who are eligible. That includes essential workers as well as those who are more vulnerable to severe illness from COVID-19 and those who are more vulnerable to serious influenza complications.
Those who should not get a flu vaccine without first consulting a physician include children less than 6 months old and people with moderate or severe illness with a fever, according to the county website.
Souri said Collin County Health Care Services will track influenza activity as it has in previous seasons. The county website states that the periodic influenza reports on its website are released “as needed.” The reports from the previous season denote, among other factors, the number of positive influenza tests in the county for the week.
“All clinics are following minimum standards for safe practice related to COVID-19 set by the Texas Medical Board,” Souri said.
Influenza reporting is voluntary, she said, and reports are based on positive diagnostic testing.
During the 2019-20 flu season, Collin County saw a general climb starting in October to a peak of over 450 positive tests reported during a week in late December, according to the county’s reports.
The number generally declined afterwards, rising again for a few weeks to peak to a lesser degree in February before falling and landing at just one positive test reported for the week of May 2, the most recently shared report on the county’s website.
In the same report, the county reported a total of two pediatric deaths associated with the flu for the season.
Collin County Health Care Services will have an influenza vaccine by appointment only, Souri said.
For more information on county immunizations, go to collincountytx.gov/healthcare_services/Pages/immunization.aspx.