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Healthwatch 16: Flattening flu

There is a hope that maybe the steps we're all taking to prevent COVID could also prevent high flu numbers this year.

DANVILLE, Pa. — This fall and winter present a special challenge for health care officials across the country: flu season, combined with a potential uptick in COVID-19 cases.

"I've heard the term 'twindemic' coined these days about the phenomenon of having to deal with both the COVID pandemic and the flu at the same time."

Dr. Stanley Martin is the director of infectious diseases at Geisinger Medical Center. He spoke with Newswatch 16 about what could be a frightening time: flu season, combined with a possible uptick in COVID-19 cases. Influenza is a respiratory illness that can be deadly.

"This worries everybody across the entire country. If we have a surge of patients with COVID-19 and a surge of patients with influenza simultaneously, that could overwhelm the health care system," Dr. Martin said.

There is a hope that maybe the steps we're all taking to prevent COVID could also prevent high flu numbers this year.

"Of course, in order for that to happen, people need to wear the masks and keep their distance. And we have seen that sometimes people are not good at that," said Dr. Martin. "These two infections are very similar and appear very similar in such a way that most doctors won't be able to tell the difference without doing tests. At the end of the day, the most important thing to do is to prevent the infection in the first place."

When it comes to COVID, all we can do in the way or prevention is to continue to wear a mask and keep our distance.

But flu has a means of prevention: the flu vaccine, and right now is the time to get one.

"I've already gotten mine," Dr. Martin said. "And you should get one, too."

Dr. Martin used this example: He says not getting a flu shot is a little like not putting your seatbelt on just because you've never been in a crash before.

Meanwhile, this fall and winter, if you're feeling unwell, experts say to get tested to know for sure and stay at home if you can to prevent spreading anything.