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'Flu Fighters' coalition formed to urge residents to get flu vaccine
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A patient receives an influenza vaccine
AP Photo/LM Otero

A coalition of Doctors and associations called 'Flu Fighters' has united to urge Mississippians to get their flu shot. They're concerned that the combined outbreaks of the flu and coronavirus could multiply disease severity.

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Flu season begins in October, but doctors say now is the time to get a flu shot. Officials say during a typical year, the flu leads to thousands of hospitalizations that can stress the state's healthcare system. But the coronavirus pandemic has already caused hospitals to operate near maximum capacity. Dr. Mark Horne, President of the Mississippi State Medical Association, says viruses like the flu or coronavirus lower immunity to other illnesses, which could lead to severe outcomes for patients, but combined the risk factors multiply. "So we'll see people who get influenza, and then they get a bacterial pneumonia," says Dr. Horne. "We've also seen that with COVID-19, in doing so it opens them up to other problems. So we haven't seen COVID-19 and influenza together in the same patient, but we can only imagine that that's not going to be a good combination."

Experts say that wearing masks and social distancing will help reduce transmission of the flu, but the virus still poses a serious risk because of the coronavirus.

Dr. John Gaudet is President of the Mississippi Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He says young children and older adults are the most at risk for severe outcomes from the flu, which could largely be avoided through a vaccine. "Any death of any age person is a tragedy, death of a young person is a tremendous tragedy, and just the thought of that death being preventable just makes it that much harder to stomach," says Dr. Gaudet. "Which is why I'm telling everybody to get their flu shots this year."

Experts say a flu shot can reduce the risk of being admitted to the ICU with the flu by 82%.