Worries mount as Flu Season & Covid-19 collide

    People will be flooding local clinics as flu season gets under way, but a mounting trepidation can be felt as testing for Covid-19 reaches new highs while the city is in the red

    Although getting tested for Covid-19 wasn’t exactly in demand when this pandemic got underway, by now, almost everyone has gotten tested either out of fear or perhaps even necessity. The numbers of community members flooding the clinics has certainly risen, but now that the city has reached the red that had been quite imminent for a number of weeks, worries also have mounted, many wondering if local clinics and medical staff would be able to handle the influx of people also attending the clinics for the influenza shots they get every year when flu season is upon us.

    Also … many are worried about getting the influenza flu at all, fearing the possibility of co-infection or not knowing the difference between the two. These fears are quite rational at such times and if you feel like that, don’t worry, as you are not alone. We’ve uncovered some facts that may help limit your worries and fear during these trying times, but also shed some light on some pretty serious issues that should not be ignored when it comes to the two flues.

    A staff member at Clinique Parc Ex on Jean Talon Street closing up after a tough day of testing

    Covid-19 vs. Influenza

    The run-of-the-mill influenza flu was and is a definitely powerful flu. It could sometimes come even with gastrointestinal issues and really no one wanted to go through it. It apparently wasn’t or rather isn’t as dangerous as the Covid-19 flu, but fatalities occurred even with this flu over the years, especially among the elderly and the ill.

    As for Covid-19, by now, we know the severity of it and its scope, but how much do we really know about the two of them and their similarities? And are our theories as mentioned just above right on the money when it comes to influenza, or is it more serious than we are all letting on as of late?

    Covid-19 symptoms

    Of course, all of us have been dealing with the ins and outs of this virus for months now, and who knows how long we will still be dealing with its terrible clutches, but a refresher never hurt anyone, so here goes …

    The most noticeable symptoms to watch out for are as follows: fever, cough, fatigue. The symptoms that are less-likely but still important to take notice of: aches and pains, sore throat, diarrhea, conjunctivitis, headache, loss of taste or smell (which as of late has been more commonly reported by those suffering from the virus), a rash on skin, or discoloration of fingers and toes.

    There are also a series of serious symptoms that shouldn’t be ignored at all: difficulty breathing and shortness of breath, chest pains, loss of speech or movement. You—and since the beginning of this thing—have been urged to seek medical attention if you have any one of these serious symptoms. You have also been urged to, now as before, call before visiting your doctor or health facility. “People with mild symptoms who are otherwise healthy should manage their symptoms at home. On average it takes 5–6 days from when someone is infected with the virus for symptoms to show, however it can take up to 14 days,” as per the official notice of the government of Canada. And that has been the case and remains to be the case with this pandemic since its appearance.

    Influenza symptoms

    So, as per the Government of Canada, the flu—influenza—symptoms are as follows: fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, and some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

    The similarities are indeed quite striking and it can be understood why there are those out there panicking.

    But at the end of the day, all you can do is get tested and see whether you have caught the regular influenza or have caught Covid-19, which brings us to our next point and probably the overall point of this article …

    The ins and outs by one of the foremost experts in Montréal

    Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg, President and CEO of the Integrated Health and Social Services University Network for West-Central Montreal (West-Central Montreal Health), had this to say in a statement published on September 23rd on the West-Central Montreal Health website: “…I drew some comparisons between COVID-19 and the flu, which continues to pose a serious threat to the health and well-being of our society and to people around the world … (at the start) we were worried that we would be facing a situation similar to the Spanish flu of 1918 and the Hong Kong flu of 1968 during which no vaccines were initially available … It is certainly true that differences do exist between the two illnesses. The current misunderstanding arises, however, from my statement comparing COVID-19 to the flu. Since the flu and its dire consequences have been with us for so long and can usually be prevented with a vaccine, many of us have wrongly come to believe that it is not a serious disease … some people have improperly chosen to think that I am equating the threat level of COVID-19 with that of the supposedly insubstantial flu rather than the pandemics mentioned above.

    Nothing could be further from the truth. Despite any misimpressions that may exist in some corners of society, the fact is that the flu remains an extremely hazardous adversary. Both COVID-19 and the flu – I am not referring to the common cold – can be deadly enemies …

    “The real question is why the seasonal flu fails to arouse the same sense of urgency that is triggered by COVID-19. The single best answer is probably the fact that we already have a flu vaccine, while nothing similar has yet been developed for COVID-19. In all likelihood, if a flu vaccine did not exist, the effects of the disease—in terms of the rates of sickness and death—would be much more severe … we also tend to downplay the seriousness of the flu because it has become such a familiar, seasonal feature of the fall and winter seasons. On the other hand, COVID-19 attacked us for the first time this year and we are still in the process of developing a comprehensive “portrait” of how the virus behaves. As a result, we erroneously see the flu as posing so weak a threat that we sometimes even complain about having “a touch of the flu”, when all we have is a bad cold or sore throat that can be shrugged off with relative ease. It goes without saying that in these cases we are misusing the word “flu” or “grippe” in French …

    “Some people point out that COVID-19 seems more dangerous than the flu, because of the medical problems that persist in the patient after the virus itself has been overcome. The fact is that the flu carries its own set of major risks. For example, a study by the Centers for Disease Control in the United States found that of the 80,000 adults hospitalized with the flu over a period of eight years, sudden and serious heart complications were common in one of every eight patients. Data presented to the American Stroke Association has also shown that having a flu-like illness increases the odds of having a stroke by nearly 40 percent over the next 15 days, with an elevated risk that persists for up to one year. In addition, research submitted to the American Heart Association has found that flu vaccination in high risk patients was associated with a 28 per cent reduced risk of heart attack, a 47 per cent reduced risk of a temporary blockage of blood to the brain, and a 73 per cent reduced risk of death …

    “In other words, without the vaccine, the consequences to those high-risk patients would probably have been appalling. One major benefit has emerged from this incident: It has given me an opportunity to remind the public how important it is for every person—especially those at high risk—to be vaccinated against the seasonal flu. Contracting both the flu and COVID-19 could be devastating, which represents one more reason for wearing masks, social distancing and washing our hands regularly …” His entire statement is an informative and enlightening read and it can be found here: https://www.ciussswestcentral.ca/health-alerts/coronavirus-covid-19/

    So, as the good doctor says, it can be extremely dangerous to contract both at the same time and the standard run-of –the mill influenza flu that I mentioned earlier in this piece is far more serious than most people think, so please be prudent out there.

    Clinics and handling testing and flu shots

    All local clinics refused comment or weren’t available for comment when I reached out to them (and I reached out to a lot), but we’re sure they’re doing their best to service the needs of everyone in the community. We urge you though to attend facilities that you have trusted in the past when getting tested and having the flu shots administered.