Risk of catching flu is greater with pandemic restrictions relaxed, health officials say

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Friday, November 5, 2021
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According to health officials, there weren't many cases last season because of the pandemic's health and safety guidelines.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The COVID-19 pandemic is still the main focus for local health leaders, but this flu season could add to the pressure on hospitals and medical staff.

Flu season is underway, with the peak starting around December.

According to health officials, there weren't many cases last season because of the health and safety guidelines in place for the pandemic -- including mandatory masks and more people working and learning from home.

"We benefitted in protecting ourselves from all viruses that typically peak around this time of year," said Dr. Erum Kazim, with Dignity Health Medical Group in Merced.

She warns this flu season could look different with many restrictions relaxed.

"There is an increased chance of the flu spreading more rapidly this year," she said.

The flu shot is recommended for anyone six months and older.

Dr. Kazim said it's one way to protect yourself and those around you.

RELATED: Pediatric COVID vaccines: Full list of Central California locations offering Pfizer shots for kids

"The vaccine is the best preventative measure you can take," she said.

As a pediatrician, Dr. Kazim said this is also the time when she sees many young children catch multiple viruses at the same time.

"Yes, it's possible to get COVID-19 and the flu," she explained.

Now that the CDC has authorized Pfizer's kid dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, Dr. Kazim recommends children get that shot, too.

According to the CDC, parents may choose to space out the shots, but it is safe to get the flu and COVID vaccines together.

Dr. Kazim recommends getting the shots in different areas.

"You can have the vaccine in each one of the arms, or for little kids, for example, the thigh muscle," she said.

Dr. Kazim added that recipients might experience muscle aches, a sore arm or a low-grade fever but emphasized it isn't the virus. These are only side effects, as your immune system responds to the vaccine.

It takes two weeks for the flu shot to take full effect, which is why those in the health care system are recommended to get the shot now.