The Twindemic: What You Can Do to Keep Yourself Healthy
November 16, 2020
If you’ve been hearing the term “twindemic” a lot recently, you’re not alone. A twindemic describes the potential for two pandemics at once: the COVID-19 pandemic and a possible flu pandemic this winter.
Why should I be concerned about a twindemic?
This will be our first peak flu season during the COVID-19, which has killed more than 240,000 Americans and more than 1.3 million people worldwide this year. COVID-19 first showed up in the United States in late January. By the time spread had reached the point of government-imposed lockdowns, the peak flu season (which typically ends in February) had already passed.
That leaves many health experts warning about what a COVID-19 pandemic overlapping with our typical flu season could mean. Since 2010, the CDC estimates between 140,000 and 810,000 flu hospitalizations occur annually, and between 12,000 and 61,000 Americans die from the flu annually.
How do the symptoms of the flu and COVID-19 differ?
According to the CDC, many of the symptoms for the flu and COVID-19 are the same, including:
Shortness of breath/difficulty breathing
It can be hard to tell the difference between the flu and COVID-19. COVID-19 “seems to cause more serious illness in some people,” according to the CDC. COVID-19 patients have also reported a loss of taste or smell. The CDC recommends you get tested for COVID-19 if you are experiencing symptoms.
What can I do to protect myself during a twindemic?
Fortunately, there are a number of steps you can take to reduce your chances of contracting the flu or COVID-19, including:
Get a flu shot. The flu vaccine reduces your chances of getting the flu by 60%.
Maintain social distancing. The CDC recommends you maintain six feet of space between yourself and anyone who doesn’t live in your house or is sick.
Wear a mask. The CDC says you should “wear a mask in public settings when around people who don’t live in your household.”
Wash your hands often. Use soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
How can my employee benefits help?
Your health savings account (HSA) or medical flexible spending account (FSA) can help you prepare and save on a variety of expenses to help you combat potential symptoms. And that list of eligible expenses grew when the CARES Act was signed into law, making popular over-the-counter products eligible for HSA and FSA funds without a prescription.
A few products you can purchase with HSA and FSA funds are:
How close are we to a COVID-19 vaccine?
Recent developments have been extremely encouraging. High-priority groups may start receiving Pfizer’s vaccine by the end of the year. Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is the country’s top’s infectious disease expert, said it has shown “an extraordinarily high degree of efficacy — more than 90%, close to 95%.”
We also just learned of a second COVID-19 vaccine produced by Moderna, which the company says appears to be 94.5% effective against the virus. The combination of these two vaccines means “we could effectively end this pandemic in 2021,” according to Scott Gottlieb, who is a former U.S. Food and Drug Administration commissioner.
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