flu pic

Dezyrae McNeal a UCF freshman studying legal studies writes "to keep myself and my loved ones safe," on the 'What Do You Vax For?' table from the 10th healthy knights expo on Oct 7, 2021 on Memory Mall.

As peak flu season approaches, the Centers for Disease Control said flu and COVID-19 vaccines can be given simultaneously. 

Dr. James Schaus, medical director of SHS, said the flu peak typically happens from January to March, but the CDC said it can start as early as December and last as late as May. 

UCF students are able to receive flu and COVID-19 shots at Student Health Services on campus and do not need an appointment or insurance, according to the SHS website.

It is possible to be infected by influenza and COVID-19 at the same time because they are two different viruses, the CDC said, noting the importance of getting both shots to avoid serious health risks and complications. 

On their own, both COVID-19 and the flu can attack the lungs, potentially causing pneumonia, fluid in the lungs or respiratory failure, the CDC said. Each illness can also cause sepsis, cardiac injury and inflammation of the heart, brain or muscle tissues the CDC said. 

"Secondary bacterial infections are more common with influenza than with COVID-19," the CDC said. "Compared to flu, COVID-19 can cause more serious illnesses in some people and COVID-19 seems to spread more easily than flu," the CDC said.

Dr. Schaus said he recommends the same COVID-19 health measures for avoiding the flu, including hand hygiene, mask wearing, social distancing and getting vaccinated. 

"We get the flu shot in the fall to build up antibodies to be protected during the peak flu season," the doctor said. "The earlier someone gets their shot gives them a better chance to be protected if an early flu surge were to happen."

Unlike the COVID-19 vaccine, the flu shot is a singular shot given annually. The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines require two shots, about six weeks apart, the CDC said.

In order to be eligible for the shot, students going to SHS must not have a fever or be showing symptoms of infection, SHS said. This is to ensure that if a person suffers from any side effects it will not worsen their condition.

Other ineligibilities are having a history of vaccine allergies or of Guillan-Barre syndrome, a rare autoimmune disorder in which a person’s own immune system damages their nerve cells.

Additional requirements to receive the flu shot at the UCF Health Center are a UCF ID and wearing a face covering, according to their website.

The 10th annual Knights Healthy Expo hosted on Memory Mall took place in October and featured SHS administering the flu vaccine for UCF students along with other information and resources from more health service organizations at UCF.

Health sciences freshman Sweta Srinivasan attended the event and said she gets her flu shot every year. 

"I got my flu vaccine shot because it not only protects me against the flu but other people," Srinivasan said. 

Dezyrae McNeal, a UCF freshman majoring in legal studies, gave similar reasons for getting vaccinated. She said she does it to keep herself and her loved ones safe.

On its website, SHS advises students, faculty and staff to get the flu shot, particularly during COVID-19.

"This is especially critical during the COVID-19 pandemic to reduce the overall burden of respiratory illnesses on the healthcare system," the website states.

Dr. Schaus recommends students keep track of their sickly symptoms because of the viruses' overlapping characteristics. 

"Flu is more characteristic to give your body aches and fever, whereas COVID gives more upper respiratory system issues like congestion and cough," Dr. Schaus said.

COVID-19 symptoms typically appear later than flu symptoms after infection, however, both viruses can also be asymptomatic, the CDC said.

If a person is recovering from COVID-19 or their COVID-19 vaccine, the CDC recommends a person "should wait to be vaccinated until they have recovered from their illness and have met the criteria for discontinuing isolation."

COVID-19, unlike the flu, is shown to cause longer health problems known as "long COVID" which are "returning or ongoing health problems people can experience four or more weeks after first being infected."

Diagnostic tests are needed to confirm which virus is infecting a person, however, there are "tests that will check for seasonal influenza A and B viruses and SARS-CoV-2," the CDC said.

Dr. Schaus said he believes living among COVID-19 and influenza regularly is what will become the new normal.

"The projection of IHME in Seattle, shows gradual decrease in COVID-19 over the fall and then it will be somewhat of an endemic virus, like the way flu is endemic," Dr. Schaus said. "If you look at flu cases, we do see flu throughout the year, then we see peaks of it. And COVID-19 will probably follow that same pattern." 

The Health Center is located on the Main Campus, on Libra Drive. Satellite clinics are located at the Rosen, Health Sciences and Downtown campuses.

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