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Tampa Bay doctors work to prevent potential ‘twindemic’ of flu and COVID-19

Coronavirus

As COVID-19 cases surge, doctors encourage people to protect themselves from the flu

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A second wave of COVID-19 across the country is enough cause for major concern, but add to that the possibility of a severe flu season, and the fear of a “twindemic” is all too real.  

“We don’t know what the effect of both viruses will be,” Dr. Manuel Gordillo, the director of infection prevention and control at Sarasota Memorial Health Care System said.

Health care workers at Sarasota Memorial are upholding their extensive safety measures as they prepare for the potential influx of both flu and coronavirus patients. Without a test, it’s hard to differentiate the two viruses due to the similar symptoms.  

“Shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain, chest pressure, ongoing fever, cough,” Registered Nurse Lisa Collins-Brown said. “In our waiting room we have chairs separated, we have screeners at the front door taking temperatures.” 

When it comes to the flu, Dr. Gordillo hopes for a repeat of what we saw in March when the coronavirus pandemic began.   

“This resulted in the near disappearance of the influenza virus at that time in the United States. Probably one of the reasons why it disappeared is people started doing the social distancing, physical distance, washing their hands a lot,” said Dr. Gordillo.

Those habits are proving to be helpful in keeping at least one virus under control right now in the Tampa Bay area.  

“It’s already kind of helping to decrease what we’re seeing in the community with the flu. We’re not really seeing any flu yet,” Collins-Brown said.

It’s a silver lining as COVID-19 numbers keep topping 3,000 a day in Florida. Dr. Gordillo warns that it’s not the time to let your guard down.  

“It’s been 10 months, everyone is going through pandemic fatigue,” he said, “The antibodies from one virus don’t protect you against the other.”  

Dr. Gordillo emphasizes that, as we wait for the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine, a flu vaccine is our best bet to avoid a potential “twindemic.”

“As we always say, we need to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. We are promoting influenza immunization and we continue to give the message that people should do all the other hygienic measures,” he said.

If you have symptoms of either the flu or the coronavirus, doctors encourage you to isolate, call your primary care physician, go to urgent care or go to the emergency room if your symptoms are life-threatening.  

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