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Here’s How Flu Season Could Affect COVID-19 Testing

covid test tube

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year anywhere between 3% and 11% of the United States population will get infected with influenza (flu) and develop symptoms. The answer to managing this contagious virus has been a seasonal vaccination. While optional, the flu vaccination is encouraged and available in many forms—boasting a number of benefits and remaining a valuable preventive for new viral strains of influenza.

This 2020-2021 flu season, however, getting your flu vaccine might just be the smartest thing you do all year. Why? Scientists and healthcare experts predict that the nation’s testing efforts for COVID-19 will be further overwhelmed in response to seasonal viruses and the consequential testing that follows symptoms and acute concerns in at-risk populations. What’s more, because influenza and COVID-19 are both viruses that attack the respiratory system, sharing many symptoms, it’s estimated that testing for flu and COVID-19 will exponentially increase, further backlogging labs and making it easier for the virus to spread unnoticed.

What Does This Mean for Healthcare & Community Leaders?

In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, healthcare provider and community leaders continue to balance managing the populations current healthcare needs while assuring provider safety as we enter into the winter season where respiratory illnesses tend to circulate more. With flu season around the corner, these same leaders are now trying to additionally prepare for an expected rise in influenza, allergies, and other respiratory concerns. 

Whereas in the past, come flu season, many healthcare experts could safely assume influenza in a patient exhibiting symptoms, things are different this year. Doctors will not only want to test for seasonal respiratory infections, especially for viruses like the flu, but also for SARS-CoV-2 (the strain behind coronavirus). This influx will likely increase the standing delays in COVID-19 testing—further upsetting the healthcare industry by complicating an already tedious process that takes up valuable time and limited resources. All of this will likely lead to even more challenges for healthcare workers who are currently dealing with supply shortages and limited access to lab machinery as well as other chemicals and equipment that can only be handled by specialized teams. 

What This Means for Patients

For otherwise healthy patients, testing delays may not have a negative impact. For those with underlying health concerns, timely access to lab reports is crucial to interrupting and caring for symptoms before an exacerbation can occur. With backlogged labs and busy waiting rooms full of patients who are concerned about their health, the likelihood of contracting contagions increases. Failure to provide continuity of care is also a risk, as new medical reports are likely to get confused, delayed, or lost in the chaos. 

DispatchHealth: Helping You Navigate Urgent Healthcare Needs

Managing life and learning how to cope with the current global situation—especially for the elderly busy parents, long-distance caregivers, and community leaders—is undoubtedly a concern as the COVID-19 crisis continues. While you juggle working from home, caring for a dependent from a distance, and coping with changing public health mandates, know that DispatchHealth is here to help you navigate the current healthcare situation.

patient treated in home

We serve a wide variety of individuals with minor to complex medical issues in the comfort of their homes and partner with communities to provide at-risk residents with the urgent care alternatives that they need. By offering a personalized, care-in-place service to those who are busy, bound to a house, or have mobility issues, DispatchHealth can treat acute medical needs without a disruptive emergency room experience. What’s more, we always prioritize continuity of care—keeping an open, succinct line of communication from patient visit to caregivers and community leaders to the primary care provider.

DispatchHealth can also test for COVID-19 as well as treat and support COVID-19 patients, or those with flu complications—streamlining acute healthcare services to meet a variety of family and partner needs. 

Requesting care is as easy as contacting us via phone, mobile app, or through our website. Learn how DispatchHealth can help you better accommodate your network this flu season and how we’re responding to COVID-19 by contacting us today. 

Sources

DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies. 

Sources referenced in this article: 

  1. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/08/how-will-covid-19-affect-coming-flu-season-scientists-struggle-clues
  2. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2769835
  3. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/25/health/coronavirus-flu-testing.html
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/vaccine-benefits.htm
  5. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/season/faq-flu-season-2020-2021.htm
  6. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/vaccinations.htm
  7. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season.htm
  8. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/flu-vs-covid19.htm

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