Phoenix doctor stresses the importance of getting a flu shot amid the pandemic

Flu season is just around the corner, and health care professionals are urging everyone to get their flu shot as soon as possible.

"The same things we do to minimize the spread of COVID is the same things to minimize the spread of the flu -- wearing a mask, hand hygiene, staying at home when you can, physically distancing from others," said Natasha Bhuyan, a family physician with One Medical in Phoenix.

Bhuyan says even if the flu season is moderate, it's important to get a flu shot as soon as possible this year.

NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2020/08/21: An advertisement offering free flu shots is seen during the protest. Families grieving the loss of their loved ones by the pandemic organized a 'March for the Dead' in New York City to mourn over 175,000 American

"We all know ... the flu seasons [have] the highest utilization of the ER, hospitals and the ICU, so when we have flu cases and COVID cases colliding, it could really strain our healthcare resources," said Bhuyan.

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Dr Bhuyan says on average, only 45% of Americans get the flu vaccine every year, but this year they're hoping that number increases in an effort to prevent more people from being hospitalized.

"It's able to decrease cases of the flu, but even if you get the flu, if you've gotten the flu vaccine, it decreases the severity of the flu," Buhyan explained. "So it's preventing people from going to the hospital, going to the ER."

There's one other issue: How do you decipher between the seasonal flu and COVID?

"Flu symptoms and COVID symptoms are very similar," Bhuyan said. "That is going to cause some diagnostic challenges for doctors. People get cough, fatigue, fever, shortness of breath. One of the distinguishing features is with COVID, people lose their sense of smell, we don't see that with the flu."

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