As fall approaches and COVID-19 continues to spread, the importance of getting a flu shot couldn’t be higher.
“I want people to begin to think about getting their flu vaccine now,” said Saria Saccocio, MD, Ambulatory Chief Medical Officer at Prisma Health. “It would be catastrophic for many people to have both flu and COVID-19 at the same time, so please start planning. And if you’ve skipped it in years past, I strongly caution you that now is the year to make sure you’re doing everything to keep yourself healthy and safe for the coming months.”
Dr. Saccocio said everyone is at risk for getting COVID-19 this year, which means everyone is at risk for the potential of having COVID-19 and flu at the same time. “Each illness would make the other that much more dangerous and potentially more deadly,” she said.
Those already at risk for complications from the flu alone include:
- Children – Children should be vaccinated for flu at 6 months of age. Each year, millions of children get sick with seasonal flu, thousands are hospitalized, and some children die from it.
- Older adults – If you’re 65 or older, ask for a high-dose vaccine.
- People with chronic conditions – Those with chronic health problems should ALWAYS get vaccinated. It’s shown to be an important tool to help prevent complications associated with diabetes, heart and lung diseases.
- Pregnant women – Vaccination reduces risk of flu-associated acute respiratory infection in pregnant women.
Here’s what else you need to know about flu prevention:
- Don’t wait to be vaccinated. While seasonal influenza outbreaks can happen as early as October, in most years, flu activity peaks between December and February. Get vaccinated early to help ensure maximum effectiveness throughout the entire flu season.
- Shots cannot give you the flu. They can make the injection site sore, and you may feel achy. If you do have pain in your arm after the injection, consider taking an anti-inflammatory medication like acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
- Take care of yourself. In addition to getting the flu vaccination, take good care of yourself by having good health habits such as a healthy diet and exercise. Cover your mouth with your arm when you cough or sneeze. Frequently wash your hands with soap or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Disinfect surfaces. The flu virus can survive up to 48 hours on surfaces, so wipe down surfaces in your home with disinfectant.
If you do experience flu symptoms, immediately call your provider to see if antiviral drugs are appropriate for you. They can lessen flu symptoms and duration, but the medication will work best when started within 48 hours of an initial flu diagnosis. Learn more at https://www.ghs.org
About Saria Saccocio, MD, FAAFP, MHA
As the Ambulatory Chief Medical Officer for Prisma Health, Dr. Saria Saccocio supports population health initiatives that span across all departments and specialties in the outpatient space, striving for optimization of quality, patient experience and efficiency of healthcare delivery.
Dr. Saccocio has demonstrated a consistent history of leading award-winning programs and improving patient care and safety as a Chief Medical Officer for health systems in the southeast. She received her Doctor of Medicine from the University of Florida, and her Executive Master of Health Administration from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. She completed her Family Medicine residency at the University of Miami before opening her own solo family practice. She continues to serve patients at the Free Medical Clinic and precepts family medicine residents at the Center for Family Medicine in Greenville, South Carolina.
Becker’s Hospital Review has recognized Dr. Saccocio as one of the top 100 Hospital and Health System CMOs to Know and has been elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society. Her extensive civic and community involvement has included serving in many ways including: the Modern Healthcare Women Advisory Board, board member for the South Carolina Hospital Association, United Way of Greenville County; Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Upstate, the South Carolina Academy of Family Physicians Board, and is an Alum of the Women’s Leadership Institute and the Diversity Leadership Institute at Furman University.