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Concerns rise as coronavirus, flu season overlap

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Flu season has officially begun in the United States, but many are still wondering how the global coronavirus pandemic may exacerbate its effect.

“We know that flu seasons can be very severe and historically, can lead to thousands of deaths every year,” said Dr. Nicole Iovine, an epidemiologist at the University of Florida.

Influenza typically will have a pretty sudden onset.

You might feel okay in the morning and then feel really bad by the evening and coronavirus does more of a slow burn, so to speak.

Dr. Marissa Levine, a professor of public health at the University of South Florida, said there is a silver lining.

With travel down and social distancing up, doctors say this year’s flu season may be less severe because of the safety measures already in use for COVID-19.

So if we keep our distance, if we use face coverings, if we wash our hands and do all the hygienic activities we’ve talked about, we could actually see a very limited flu season.”
“Australia, for example, reported a very mild flu season, and some people believe that’s related to all of the precautions for COVID.

Iovine said one of the worst-case scenarios is having community outbreak of both COVID-19 and the flu at the same time.

“One of the reasons we really need these tests, who can distinguish between flu and coronavirus, is that it’s because the symptoms overlap,” Iovine said.

Doctors want people to wear their masks, keep socially distant and with rare exceptions, get their flu shots this year.

According to the CDC, the 2019-2020 flu season in the U.S. saw 38 million infections and 22,000 flu deaths.