Autumn is finally upon us! As we eagerly anticipate football games and cooler weather, we, unfortunately, can’t forget that there are two viruses just as excited for this fall season. Along with several new variants of Coronavirus, flu season is back and ready to make a grand entrance.
Last year, there was a notable drop in flu cases due to COVID-19 safety precautions — such as social distancing, wearing masks and limited capacity in public spaces. However, these measures are no longer strictly enforced in efforts to rapidly return to pre-pandemic times.
As a result, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns, “Reduced population immunity due to lack of flu virus activity since March 2020 could result in an early and possibly severe flu season.”
In addition to a harsh flu season, we are also expecting a rise in Coronavirus cases. Since the first day of classes on August 23, there have already been over 460 positive Coronavirus test results from University of Florida students and faculty. The state of Florida currently has an average of over 15,000 COVID-19 cases per day. Although things may seem normal, we cannot forget that the pandemic is still not over.
With that said, during this fall season, we are combatting both the flu and the Coronavirus — which can both be fatal. Luckily, there are many actions we can take to decrease our risks of catching either one of these viruses.
The most effective way to prevent contracting the flu or the Coronavirus is by getting vaccinated. According to the CDC, “All COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the United States are effective at preventing COVID-19 as seen in clinical trial settings.”
Despite common fears and controversy that derive from the discussion of vaccines, research has continuously confirmed that they are safe and practical.
“Over 380 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been given in the United States from December 14, 2020, through September 13, 2021… The vaccines met the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) rigorous scientific standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality needed to support approval or authorization of a vaccine,” according to the CDC.
In addition, recent studies affirm that flu vaccinations reduce the risk of flu illness by between 40% and 60% among the overall population.
Along with decreasing the chances of contracting the flu, receiving the flu vaccination also serves as a preventive tool for people with certain chronic health conditions. It also helps protect pregnant people before and after pregnancy, as well as protects others who are most susceptible to the flu — such as babies, children, older people and those who are immunocompromised.
Another way to prevent these viruses is by getting plenty of Vitamin D. It is proven to fight respiratory tract infections. Humans get Vitamin D mainly from sun exposure, and during flu season, there is not much of the sun. Fortunately, Vitamin D is also in some foods, such as tuna or mushrooms.
A more simple way to combat these viruses is to wash your hands frequently. While it may seem easy, a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture admits that we are failing to properly wash our hands 97% of the time.
The CDC advises that the best way to properly clean your hands is by, first, wetting your hands with clean running water. Then, apply soap and lather it everywhere — your palms, the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds, then rinse off the soap under clean, running water. Lastly, dry your hands with a clean towel.
On a more difficult note, some other ways to combat the flu and the Coronavirus are by avoiding large events and people. With school and restaurants open at full capacity, it is likely going to be challenging to keep your distance from others. However, if there are online alternatives for certain events, it may be best to take this option. If there are no alternatives, be sure to wear a mask and bring hand sanitizer.
Sadly, no vaccines are 100% effective. The duration of immunity varies by disease and vaccine. Because of this, it is essential to stock up on medicine and cleaning supplies just in case you do end up getting sick. Some helpful medicines are acetaminophen, ibuprofen, cough drops and decongestants.
It may be a lot to take in, but these precautions are necessary in order to enjoy an autumn season free from sickness. Wearing masks, washing your hands and getting vaccinated are all ways to avoid spreading germs to others. By following these guidelines, you’re doing your part in keeping the community safe and healthy.