Thorpe: How to prepare for flu season during the COVID-19 pandemic

Posted 12/11/20

The 2020-21 flu season is on track to be one of the worst in years, and with COVID-19 still running rampant in Arizona, being infected with both could be dangerous.

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Thorpe: How to prepare for flu season during the COVID-19 pandemic


The 2020-21 flu season is on track to be one of the worst in years, and with COVID-19 still running rampant in Arizona, being infected with both could be dangerous. Luckily, there are a few simple things we can all do to protect our health and the health of others.

Get the flu shot

First and foremost, get your flu shot. Getting a flu vaccine is an essential part of protecting your health and your family’s health this season.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness by up to 60% among the overall population. In Arizona every year anywhere from 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu.

Although flu vaccines won’t prevent COVID-19, they will reduce the burden of illnesses and hospitalizations on the health care system. People at higher risk from the flu are also at higher risk from COVID-19. Young children, pregnant women, people 65 years and older and people with chronic health conditions, like asthma, diabetes or lupus, should get their flu shot as soon as possible.

Wear a mask

The coronavirus and the flu are contagious respiratory illnesses. Both viruses can be spread to others up to approximately six feet away and mainly through droplets when coughing, sneezing or talking. Droplets can then land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby and be inhaled into the lungs.

Masks should be worn to protect yourself from droplets, germs, and illness as well as to help prevent your own germs from spreading to others. Wearing a mask is also a sign of respect for others.

Wearing a mask, whether you’re ill, have allergies or just want to protect yourself, is becoming a normal occurrence and is a sign of good hygiene when in a high-risk situation.

Doctors agree the best masks are multi-layered. If the mask has an added layer for an insert filter, that’s even better. Homemade cloth masks should follow the same rule: layers.

Cloth face masks need a minimum of two layers to prevent the dispersion of droplets from the nose and mouth.

Clean & disinfect

The flu virus can live up to three days on hard surfaces. COVID-19 can live up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel, so it is important to remember to clean and disinfect surfaces daily. Target items and surfaces that are frequently touched but rarely disinfected.

Cleaning the surface before disinfecting is an important step.

Washing the surface with soap or detergent and water is enough to make the surface clean, then you can go in with a disinfecting substance like over-the-counter disinfecting wipes or multi-surface cleaners.

Bedding, blankets and pillowcases are a hotspot for germs — clean these items by running your washer on the highest heat.

Still, the best way to prevent illness is to limit exposure to the virus: maintain a distance of six feet between you and others and limit your time in public areas.

Common symptoms that COVID-19 and flu share include:

• Cough.

• Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.

• Fatigue (tiredness).

• Fever or feeling feverish/chills.

• Sore throat.

• Runny or stuffy nose.

• Muscle pain or body aches.

• Headache.

Even if you are in an area that does not require face masks, your personal decision to wear a mask could protect you and those around you.

Extra protection could mean the difference between staying healthy during what could be one of the most serious flu seasons in Arizona’s recent history.

Kevin Thorpe is president of US POWER AZ PPE LLC, a manufacturer of 3-Ply, surgical-grade, disposable recyclable face masks for the general public.