Wyoming Department of Health urges flu preparedness
Wyoming health officials are urging residents to get vaccinated against the flu in the coming weeks.
September 28, 2020
Wyoming health officials are urging residents to get vaccinated against the flu in the coming weeks as the state grapples with the coronavirus and its symptoms, which mirror many of those associated with influenza.
Twelve Wyomingites died of the flu during the 2019-20 season; flu season begins in October and ends in May. More than four times that many have died of COVID-19 in roughly the same period of time, although the coronavirus does not appear to subside during the summer months like the flu.
The two diseases are similar in that they are particularly dangerous for older and more vulnerable populations, and the similarity in symptoms — sore throat, fever, cough, headache, fatigue — makes it imperative that Wyomingites protect themselves against the flu in order to better treat patients who contract the diseases.
Flu deaths and coronavirus deaths are tracked the same way: death certificates with officials listing the disease as the cause or contributing cause of death.
“We consider flu shots to be the first and most important step in flu protection,” State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist said in a statement. “Everyone six months of age and older should receive a flu shot. Flu viruses change frequently, so the vaccine is updated every season. Flu vaccines are safe and reduce illness, hospitalizations and deaths.”
Vaccines are safe and effective; though someone can still contract the flu after receiving a shot, the illness is typically less severe and doesn’t last as long.
Harrist said that the 2019-20 season was severe, but the restrictions put in place in the spring to slow the spread of COVID-19 also blunted the fatalities related to the flu.
“As we approach a new flu season, we know flu viruses will circulate while COVID-19 remains a threat,” she said. “Because there are fewer restrictions in Wyoming now than in the spring, we are concerned about the potential harm to our residents and strain on our healthcare system from the combined threat of both influenza and COVID-19.”
Wyoming’s most deadly year for the flu came during the 2014-15 season, when 29 residents died. COVID-19 has killed 50 people this year thus far, per Wyoming Department of Health data.