Health Advice



Flu is spreading around the Philly region and the nation. The holidays could help it take off

Stacey Burling, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Health & Fitness

Who needs a flu shot? Nearly everyone.

Every year, public health experts say everyone over 6 months old should get a flu shot. They say that's especially important this year because COVID-19 is also circulating.

According to the CDC, the flu vaccination rate for children is lower this year than last. As of the week ending Nov. 6, 35% had been vaccinated compared with 40.3% at that time last year. Data from October showed vaccination rates among pregnant people were down by 17 percentage points, from 58.2% last year to 40.8% this year. The news was better for all adults. A survey conducted in early November on whether adults had either already been vaccinated or intended to get a shot projected that vaccination coverage this season would be 58.5%, up 3.7 percentage points from last season. When the survey was conducted, 40.9% of respondents said they had already been vaccinated.

Flu usually announces itself suddenly with fever, chills, and body aches. Other symptoms include cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches, fatigue, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea, according to the CDC. It tends to be most dangerous for very young children and people over 65. COVID-19 can cause these symptoms, as well. It is most dangerous for seniors, but people with obesity and many chronic illnesses are also at high risk.

Tan said the symptom most likely to differentiate COVID-19 from flu is loss of sense of taste or smell, which is much more common in COVID-19.

Most people will not be able to tell what they have without testing. "It's going to be very difficult to distinguish the flu vs. COVID just simply based on symptoms," Tan said. Sick people, she said, should stay home to protect others.


Cennimo said we don't all have to rush to the hospital the minute we get a fever. "Many of us, especially if we've been vaccinated, should be OK," he said.

However, people who are at high risk for serious illness or are experiencing serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing should definitely seek medical help. Antiviral medications are available for flu and COVID-19, and patients with COVID-19 can get monoclonal antibodies. All must be given early in the course of the disease.

It takes two weeks for flu vaccines to become effective, so health officials said you should get one as soon as possible. And, many people still need COVID-19 shots and boosters.

"All roads lead to: Protect yourself with the shot," Cennimo said.

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