Brandon Bartlett talks with our medical expert about the 2020 flu season and COVID-19

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(WEHT) — With the flu season approaching, Brandon Bartlett talked to Dr. David Schultz with Evansville Primary Care about the flu, when you should get the vaccine as well as COVID-19 and if you can get both at the same time.


Brandon Bartlett: Dr. Schultz, thanks for joining us tonight. We are heading into flu season and it’s coming at a time when we are still seeing new cases of the coronavirus every day. Is it possible to get the flu and the Coronavirus at the same time?

David Schultz: Well Brandon, it certainly is possible to get both the flu and coronavirus at the same time. But that’s usually not going to be the case because generally if someone becomes ill with one of the two diseases, they’re going to start isolating, stay indoors and try and work and focus on getting over that infection with hopefully not giving it to another person. So we’ll see some self isolation as a result. One of the problems that we have Brandon with this is the symptom or the symptoms between flu and coronavirus are very similar. And so it’s very difficult to tell the difference between whether someone has flu or whether someone has coronavirus. And most of us physicians are really concerned about that.

BB: If someone were to get both of those viruses at the same time, what is that likely to do to us? How sick could we get?

DS: Well, it really depends on a person’s pulmonary status. First of all, how well their lungs are and what we would expect to see rather than having both infections happen at the same time as one right after the other but generally speaking at the lungs of are unhealthy because of one of those infections that could lead to a worse prognosis and a worse treatment course. The other thing to consider is if someone has underlying autoimmune disease, for example, lupus, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and so forth, they may have a poor prognosis, and may have a rougher time getting through the infections.

BB: I’ve already been seen signs all around town saying get your flu shot here. What do we know about this year’s flu vaccine and when should we get it?

DS: Well, Brandon, generally we recommend patients to start getting their flu vaccine after October 1. And I would be very diligent this year to get that they’re still manufacturing flu vaccines, and we’re trying to have enough for everybody but again, I would try to get that October 1 or later. Some of the retail pharmacies already have it. And that’s okay to get it there as well. And it’s not really too early to get it right now, but Medicare guidelines came in October 1.

BB: Good to know. Well, other than getting that flu shot should we be using the same preventative measures we use for the Coronavirus for the flu?

DS: Brandon, I think you’re bringing up a very important point. I think in the years past, we may have been a little bit lacks on the approach to flu. After all, flu should not be a big deal, but we actually know that flu does kill a lot of people every year. Any year in our country. There’s between 30,000 and 60,000 deaths from flu in a country where many people get their vaccinations. So flu is a very serious thing. And so we should be wearing our mask when people have flu. One of the differences between flu and coronavirus, however, is how long the infection and the infectious rate is. And we know with flu, the duration of symptoms and also the symptoms. The intensity of symptoms may be a little bit less of the other thing we know about flu and may not be nearly as contagious as the coronavirus. So Those are some subtle differences.

BB: Yeah, let’s talk about supplements because many times when you and I have talked to you have recommended taking vitamin D. And now, new research just out shows patients who are deficient in vitamin D are more likely to test positive for COVID-19. Why is that?

DS: Well, vitamin D is very important our body we know it helps with calcium metabolism, as well as our bone metabolism. So it’s very important there. But we also know it plays a very integral role in our immune system. And it works to help our immune cells work to fight against certain infections. And so as a consequence of that, we need vitamin D to be adequate so we can fight off disease and fight off infection. And so generally speaking, if you measure a vitamin D level, we want it to be somewhere between 40 and 80. But if you are deficient in vitamin D, we’re recommending taking enough vitamin D to get your level back to that normal range. And generally speaking, that’s about 1000 to 2000 a day of vitamin D.

BB: What other stuff Do you recommend because I hear a lot of talk about taking elderberry to prevent the flu?

DS: Well certainly there are some natural supplements that are helpful in improving your chances of not getting coronavirus and also, flu elderberry has been shown to be helpful in both disease states. Echinacea helps in some, but we found that actually Echinacea in Coronavirus may actually cause more harms. So we’re not recognizing or recommending Echinacea in Coronavirus prevention, but it certainly does help for prevention of flu. Other supplements would include zinc, I think zinc helps in both Coronavirus and also with influenza. And we’re also seeing Of course, vitamin C to be very helpful in prevention of flu as well as COVID-19.

BB: And I want to ask you about the Coronavirus vaccine because just a few days ago AstraZeneca announced it is temporarily halting clinical trials due to a sudden illness in one of the participants there will be What does this mean in general for the hope of a vaccine?

DS: Well, Brandon, it certainly is a setback for the development of vaccines. But one thing that we have to remind ourselves is we want a vaccine that’s going to be safe for the general population. And so the drug companies and pharmaceutical industries, they’re working very diligently to make sure the vaccine they come out with is not going to be harmful to to us, they want it to be safe. And so when they see that there’s been some adverse outcomes with a certain vaccine, then they will take a step backwards, look at see what the problem was, whether it was a problem with the person’s immune system, maybe it was an interaction with another medication that may be taking, or maybe there may be some unknown effects that this this vaccine may have to other people. Again, they want to make sure it’s safe. The reassuring news is, it’s not a ubiquitous problem. In other words, it’s not affecting everybody. And so hopefully this is just an isolated incident and hopefully just a minor setback so we can move forward and get that vaccine out.

BB: Absolutely. Dr. David Schultz with Evansville Primary Care. Thanks for joining us tonight.

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