20200913-bc-flu

Kaiser Permanente member Sandra Rosche gets a flu shot last week at the provider's Ming Avenue medical office.

As Kern County's hospitals finally see a reprieve from the deluge of COVID-19 patients this summer, local medical professionals and administrators are bracing themselves for flu season.

A bad seasonal flu combined with an uptick in COVID-19 cases — a "twindemic" as some have called it — could spell disaster for local medical facilities that were already stretched to the brink this summer with high patient volumes.

As Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recently put it: The United States is headed toward “the worst fall, from a public health perspective, we’ve ever had.”

Redfield followed up by urging the public to "hunker down" this winter and get a flu shot.

The annual immunization is recommended for everyone over 6 months old, even the healthiest adults, according to the CDC.

"Just do yourself a favor and do something to protect yourself now so you don’t have to worry about it," said Dr. Fernando Fan, a pediatrician with Kaiser Permanente. "If you do end up with fever, we’ll take care of you, but it’s better if you take care of yourself first, it’s better."

If the COVID-19 pandemic gets worse, and flu becomes widespread this winter, running out of hospital beds and ventilators is a real possibility, Fan said.

"So if we can try to control the one which we have the vaccine for, it helps the odds of that happening," he said.

Flu shots are already available locally and will become more available in the coming weeks. Kaiser Permanente is offering drive-thru flu shots at two locations in Bakersfield and the immunization is also currently available at Albertsons, Costco and other local pharmacies. The flu shot is covered by most insurance but costs around $50 to $60 for the uninsured.

New this year, the federal government is allowing pharmacists to give the shot to children as young as age 3 in an effort to expand access. However, it's best to check with your insurance because some may not allow child vaccinations at pharmacies.

The Kern County Public Health Services Department offers free and low-cost flu shots every year but won't receive its flu vaccine until early October, said spokeswoman Michelle Corson. It has not yet announced any flu vaccination clinics.

In an unusual step, the University of California system last month mandated that all faculty, staff and students get a flu shot by Nov. 1 in recognition of the impact a bad flu season could have on health care facilities with the ongoing pandemic.

Medical professionals urge people not to put off the vaccination out of fear of visiting a medical facility and possibly being exposed to COVID-19. At most facilities, patients exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 are separated from other patients, and staff wear protective gear.

It is possible to contract COVID-19 and flu at the same time, which could potentially cause a more severe illness and drive up mortality rates, according to Dr. Amolika Mangate with Adventist Health.

It's just one more reason to get the flu shot.

And "if you do get (the flu) it’s going to be milder with the flu shot," Mangate said.

So far, flu season has been mild in other parts of the world, which is encouraging news. Australia, for example, where flu season is April to September, had a record low season. However, that's likely due to masking and lockdown orders that were in place due to COVID-19, and high vaccination rates.

But it's no guarantee that it will be the same in the United States this winter.

Complicating matters is that both flu and COVID-19 share common symptoms so it will be hard for patients or doctors to know the difference. Early on patients presenting with fever and cough may be tested for both.

Fan, of Kaiser Permanente, said people shouldn't wait to get the flu shot. Now is the perfect time as flu tends to start spreading in October. Typically flu peaks later in the winter but that can vary and some years it's worse in October and November, he said.

Numbers for last year's flu season in Kern County were not available but in the previous season, 2018-19, there were 27 ICU hospitalizations and nine deaths from flu. That was the most since the 2013-14 season, when 23 people were hospitalized in the ICU and 11 people died of flu.

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(11) comments

Masked 2020

that's nice Zippy...so you think your Superman... have Mercy on us mere mortals

Zeppo

I've never had a flu shot so I have a good natural immunity to the flu. I've read that it's only about 10-30% effective and most people who do get the shot get sick after. I've got a great Indian doctor who believes as I do that if you expose your body to everyday germs, it protects you most of the time. I also don't take any pills for anything, which she agrees with me on, and I'm 75 yrs. old and female.

RubySue

I have never gotten sick after the flu shot. I have grandchildren varying in age from 27 to 3. I have great grand children from 7 to 5 months. I am exposed to everything that comes down the pike. But one year, I got the H1N1 flu, and I swore, no more. I have gotten a flu shot every year since. I think it is wonderful that you don't need the shot. But some of us benefit from it and are happy it is here for us to chose or not to chose to use. I am 64 years old, and female.

Boogerface Nutter

I've said that for years, however I HAVE had the actual big-time flu twice in my adult life. About 5 years apart. Temperature around 104 (I run 97.6 normally), in bed, shivering despite being under blankets and quilts. First time I was still married. Someone to bring me water, tea and soup for a full 7 days. Second time it was just me and a Beagle. I'm sure he sympathized and all I could do was wobble out of bed for water and whatever food I could prepare quickly and to feed and water the dog. I could see how people died from this stuff. When people say "I had a little head flu...or stomach flu, I laugh. The flu is not some little thing.

Last year I got my first flu shot and I'll be getting another this time.

Masked 2020

England's LongHairedBlondBoris.... followed UncleDon's lead......and then got scared once he allowed his unborn to be infected and the virusflu almost snuffed him out ... they started to get it under control and alas UncleBoris proved that CovidBrain doesn't make one wiser and he opened up all the bars again

Moardeeb

Ironically, Australia is just ending a very mild flu season. Why? They say because responsible people were wearing masks, they avoided the flu! Imagine that!

The Independent Voter

Heh. Mild flu season because, by their count, every case of the flu was labeled COVID-19. Masks are ineffective. If they worked, the whole of Europe and particularly Great Britain, where the have more readily embraced masks, wouldn't be doubling down on restrictions. You, Dweeb, have identified Europe as a model the US should follow. What happened?

Zeppo

There are several countries that are protesting the mandatory use of masks. They are realizing that this may very well be a con on the public.

Boogerface Nutter

Funny. Asian countries have been wearing masks for decades when they feel ill to keep from infecting others.

Ask the geniuses at the Sturgis motorcycle rally how that "Masks are a con" worked out.

Boogerface Nutter

Imagine where we would be if no one was wearing masks to stop the spread. Read about the Dakotas today.

Don't be an idiot....oh...probably too late.

I hope none of us gets this stuff much less dies from it.

What does it cost you to wear a mask. Is it because you won't be told what to do?

The Independent Voter

Those Asian countries you speak of, Booger, are all experiencing alleged surges despite their use of masks. Seriously, Booger?

Welcome to the discussion.

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