Flu season is coming: Have you prepared?

Graphic by Emileé Edwards | photographer

By Emily Cousins | Staff Writer

Flu season is around the corner, and the end of the pandemic isn’t quite in sight. Since COVID-19 and the flu have some similar symptoms, what is the best way to tell the difference?

Medical Director of Health Services Dr. Sharon Stern said the best way to tell if someone has the flu or COVID-19 is to get tested for both. Fever, body aches, sore throat and cough are common in both diseases, and the only confirmation can be shown in test results. Still, there are differences that can lead to an educated guess.

“The biggest one that’s not the same is the loss of smell and taste,” Stern said. “We just don’t see that with the flu, but we do see it with COVID, and it’s a pretty common symptom.”

The spread of COVID-19 and the flu are very similar, Clinical Associate Professor of Environmental Science Dr. Benjamin Ryan said.

“They both primarily spread through respiratory droplets,” Ryan said. “So that can be when someone’s coughing, sneezing … COVID-19 is suspected to be more contagious … If someone’s got COVID-19, that’s going to get spread around very rapidly and easily because no one’s been vaccinated, so there’s no sort of blocking mechanism.”

Ryan said it’s possible the flu season will not be severe this year since everyone is already wearing masks and social distancing. This is what was reflected in the Southern Hemisphere during their flu season, but that doesn’t mean the exact same thing will happen in the Northern Hemisphere.

“We don’t know what we’re going to see with the flu season, but there’s reason to be optimistic if people follow the safety measures,” Ryan said. “When safety measures are not followed, we have super spreader events.”

Some people have compared the severity of COVID-19 to the flu, but Stern said this is not accurate.

“With the flu, we know we have several antiviral medicines that work really well at shortening the course of sickness and making it less severe,” Stern said. “We also have a flu vaccine, and even if you get the flu in a year that you’ve got the flu vaccine, you will get a lighter case than you otherwise would have, so that’s why getting the flu vaccines is a great idea, but that’s also why COVID is higher risk because we don’t have a means of prevention. We don’t have a means of treatment.”

Stern said students can get tested for both COVID-19 and the flu in the North Village Community Center. She said students can call Health Services and easily make appointments from there.

There are also going to be several opportunities to get the flu shot on campus. Stern said the vaccine this year will come at no extra cost to students.

“Baylor this year has said that they will cover any portion that is not covered, or if someone is uninsured, Baylor’s going to go ahead and pick up the cost of the vaccine,” Stern said.

Ryan said it is important to remember that this pandemic will be over one day and to think positive.

“We’ll find our way through this by doing safety measures, which is by avoiding gatherings,” Ryan said. “Because you let your guard down, it doesn’t take much and you can be exposed to it.”