Opinion—In a pandemic-fatigued society, flu season arrives all the same

Nicholas Conroy, Copy Editor

To the health-conscious, autumn has another name: flu season. We are nearing the two-year mark of a post-COVID-19 existence and the world at large, including our little campus community, is certainly no stranger to virus-related fatigue. We all know the measures of safety to take in order to prevent COVID-19 by now: wash your hands, wear your mask, get vaccinated, rinse, repeat. It stands to reason that these safety measures apply to the seasonal flu as well (in fact, we’ve been dealing with that particular virus for much longer than COVID-19). 

We’re surely familiar with the concept of seasonal influenza, but that doesn’t mean our many years of being exposed to brightly colored infographics featuring flexed arms and smiling anthropomorphic injection needles have made us naturally immune to the virus. So now that another autumn has rolled around, it is time for you to schedule your annual flu shot in order to protect yourself and others. 

According to the Center for Disease Control, the 2021-22 flu season is looking to be more unpredictable than years before. This is partly because of how mild last year’s season was with the globe more attentive to handwashing and mask-wearing which deterred the spread of influenza. After the 2020 season with people beginning to feel more lax about safety policies, it is hard to predict the effects that the 2021 flu season will have on our world that is seemingly split on how to interact with COVID-19. I have heard other news sites deem this intermingling between flu season and the COVID-19 pandemic as a “twindemic” and while this is a flashy-sounding portmanteau (it would indeed make for an incredible contagion-based horror film title. I can just picture the movie poster now), it sounds too hyperbolic and provocative for my liking. The concept of two viral illnesses going around at once is scary, yes, but we know the best ways to deal with both. Remain vigilant and take action to protect yourself. Rinse. Repeat. We are all well-seasoned health safety veterans at this point.

There are some who may be concerned about how the COVID-19 vaccine that they have already received may “interact” with the flu vaccine in the body. The CDC states “Current guidance for the administration of COVID-19 vaccines indicates that these vaccines can be administered with other vaccines, including influenza vaccines.” More information on this is available on the CDC COVID-19 vaccine fact page. I can understand how someone may be a bit worried about receiving multiple vaccinations so close in time with one another, but both vaccines have repeatedly been proven effective and there is no evidence that receiving multiple vaccines at the same time causes any chronic health problems. Vaccines are created primarily for your safety and wellbeing, and as such, they are created explicitly to avoid any health complications. Science just wants to help you!

The simplest way to look at this matter is that by getting your flu shot this year (and every year). Not only are you increasing your safety and decreasing the likelihood of getting sick, you are also making things easier on everyone in your community.

“During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, flu vaccination is critical not only to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your community (especially those who are most vulnerable including children, adults age 65+, and individuals with certain chronic health conditions), but also to reduce potential strain on the US healthcare system,” said a report in the 2021 National Survey by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

Taking care of yourself and others should always be a priority, especially now and in such a small area where our hospitals can easily and quickly be overwhelmed due to the pandemic. Flu season won’t make this any easier with the illness going around. Scheduling a flu shot appointment is simple, quick and beneficial for the entire community at large. 

Lastly, I urge all students to stay home if they experience any symptoms related to the flu or COVID-19, as there is quite an overlap and it isn’t worth the risk of spreading either virus to classmates or the community. Symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath, headache and body aches. Monitor your system and seek medical care immediately if you experience any trouble breathing, chest pain or severe drowsiness. 

Remember what those childhood brightly colored cartoon infographic posters told you: knowledge is power. But it is up to you to use that knowledge for good and take action to keep yourself and others safe. 

The NMU Health Center has information available on their website about getting the flu vaccine on campus for the 21-22 season.