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Hospitals preparing for flu season amid COVID-19 pandemic

Hospitals preparing for 'twindemic'
Posted at 4:31 PM, Oct 01, 2020

INDIANAPOLIS — In past years, flu cases started rising in October and healthcare workers are now pleading with the public to get their flu vaccines to help ensure there is not a strain on the healthcare system if flu cases ramp up.

After 27 years of working at St. Vincent, Dr. Louis Profeta has nothing to compare to the COVID-19 outbreak back in March.

“It was so terrifying the early days of COVID-19," Profeta said. "Realize, we were concerned as healthcare workers if we were going to die, if our partners and our nurses were going to start dropping dead from COVID-19. We were lucky, it did not wipe out healthcare, it did not wipe out the providers.”

But now he is concerned with what could happen as we move into flu season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and the impact it could have on hospitals and emergency rooms.

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“When it comes to influenza during this time of year when we are entering into flu season is are we going to be able to determine the difference between whether these patients have COVID-19 or the flu,” Profeta said.

He is also worried that patients will not be able to determine the difference themselves and head to the emergency room thinking they have contracted COVID-19.

“What we’re concerned about is we’re going to have a huge rush of patients coming in with influenza that think they have COVID-19 and these are people who could probably be treated at home,” Profeta said

This is why healthcare workers and state leaders are asking everyone to get the flu vaccine this year.

“Every year our hospital systems get some of them on diversion because their ICU beds, their ventilators, are filled with influenza patients," Dr. Kristina Box, Indiana state health commissioner said. "So this year especially, with covid-19 we want to make sure we have as few influenza patients in the hospital as possible."

Profeta says they do prepare the hospital for the flu every year around this time, but they still are not prepared for a huge influx of patients,

“We ramp up and prepare for influenza every year," Profeta said. "Everyone gets vaccinated. We still aren’t really ready for the type of pan flu epidemic of the type that we looked at at the turn of the century.”

The good news is that most health experts, including Profeta, believe this flu season will not be that bad.

“I think we are going to see one of the mildest flu seasons in history,” Profeta said.