COVID-19 and the flu: Local doctor explains what everyone should know

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Dr. James Kravec said coronavirus precautions might reduce the number of flu cases this season

(WKBN) – This year has been a challenge, and right now, it’s becoming more challenging for health providers because COVID-19, allergies, the common cold and the flu are going on simultaneously.

Dr. James Kravec, the chief clinical officer at Mercy Health Youngstown, said it can be tough to tell the difference.

“There are so many overlapping symptoms we’re seeing these days,” said Dr. Kravec. “We recommend seeing your physician to get evaluated, and if there’s a test recommended, then that may need to be the next step.”

Dr. Kravec and the CDC recommend individuals to get the flu vaccine, starting at 6 months old, to help lessen the chances of catching the flu. The recommended time to get the vaccine is around the first of October.

He said they have started seeing flu cases, and it will continue to ramp up in the coming months until April, with the peak typically happening in the first couple of weeks in February.

“There’s debate whether it lasts the entire time, but for the most part, we know there’s one shot that we receive, and the time is around October 1,” said Dr. Kravec. “That’s why we don’t get it earlier like in July or August, we wait until now to have the full immunity last through the season with the hopes that it does work the whole time.”

While the flu vaccine doesn’t treat or prevent COVID-19, Dr. Kravec said the precautions we’ve been following during the COVID-19 pandemic might reduce the number of flu cases this season.

“It may actually help reduce the amount of flu cases,” he said. “In the southern hemisphere, which always hits prior to the northern hemisphere, we did see a lower number.”

He also said at his location, they’re preparing closely, every day as the two viruses look to clash.

“Looking at hospital census, making sure that we’re able to handle more patients, which we are,” said Dr. Kravec. “We have plans in place for increased number of flu patients. We’re seeing COVID patients. We have, and we still are seeing COVID patients in the hospital… I think it’s important to know that hospitals can handle what comes to us as far as the patients with these illnesses, but the planning is very important.”

Mahoning County Public Health has three clinics coming up for individuals to get their flu vaccination. All clinics are by appointment only:

  • Oct. 19 from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. at Boardman United Methodist Church’s Fellowship Hall, located at 6809 Market St., Youngstown, OH
  • Oct. 21 from 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. at Struthers Mauthe Park, 156 Smithfield St., Struthers, OH
  • Oct. 22 from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. at Mahoning County Public Health, 50 Westchester Dr., Youngstown, OH

They ask that individuals call before the clinic date to set up an appointment. The number is 330-270-2855 ext. 125.

Bring an insurance, Medicaid or Medicare card as well as a license.

Mahoning County Public Health is a Vaccines for Children Program Provider and will have limited opportunities for children that are uninsured or underinsured to receive the vaccine free of charge.

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