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Flu shot gains importance as COVID-19 looms, according to Dr. Elizabeth Ebueng at St. Francis Healthcare

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Dr. Elizabeth Ebeung

You wake up one morning with a fever, cough, shortness of breath, and body aches, but is it COVID-19, or the flu?

This year, that is a very real concern as we arrive in peak flu season.

Dr. Elizabeth C. Ebueng, family medicine physician at St. Francis Healthcare in Wilmington, says that “the key difference that makes COVID unique versus the flu is that people … typically have smell or taste changes. But not everyone with COVID may exhibit that symptom.”

To avoid symptoms altogether, prevention is of course ideal. Many doctors, pharmacies, and sometimes schools will encourage getting a flu shot each autumn. While this vaccine won’t decrease your chances of contracting the coronavirus, it can help lower the severity of influenza, or prevent it altogether.

Ebueng stresses the importance of vaccination, especially now, to help boost our immunity against disease. As for those of us who may be hesitant to get the shot, it can be helpful to talk over your concerns with a doctor.

“When you get the vaccine, it takes two weeks for your body to really build up the immunity,” Ebueng said. Some may also experience mild symptoms from receiving the shot, such as muscle aches, injection site soreness, or a low-grade fever, that can be interpreted as having the flu, she said.

Aside from getting a flu shot, good hand hygiene, wearing a mask appropriately, and vigilance are just as important in the fight against these viruses. And don’t forget to practice self-care as well. Mental and emotional health are just as important to take care of in these difficult times. So, wash your hands, read a book, call a friend, and be well.

Contacting your healthcare provider is always the best option here if you have questions or concerns. Dr. Ebueng also recommends two great additional resources with reliable information: familydoctor.org, and CDC.gov.