The flu and COVID-19 are indeed different disease processes caused by different viruses.
Although some of the symptoms may overlap between the two diseases, they potentially have different short-term and long-term consequences.
It’s also the case that COVID-19 still has a much higher mortality rate than the flu.
And long-term lung, heart, and brain problems were seen among surviving COVID-19 patients do not seem to happen with the flu.
But in a recent study at the University of Florida, researchers found that people who get a flu vaccine may have a lower risk of being hospitalized if and when they get COVID-19.
And the flu vaccine also appears to strongly reduce a COVID-19 patient’s risk for ending up in an intensive care unit (ICU).
The study is published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. One author is Dr. Ming-Jim Yang.
In the study, the team did an analysis of electronic health records for 2,000 COVID-19 patients.
All had tested positive for the virus at some point between this past March and August. And just over 10% of the patients had previously been vaccinated for the flu.
The researchers looked at patients who tested positive for COVID-19 and found that patients who received the influenza vaccine within the last year were less likely to be hospitalized and be admitted to the ICU.
COVID patients who had not received a flu vaccine within the last year had a 2.4 times greater odds of being hospitalized and 3.3 times greater chance of being transferred to the ICU.
As to how a vaccine for an entirely different virus might offer such protection, the team said more research is needed.
Also, the study did not prove that a flu vaccine actually caused the risk of severe COVID-19 to drop, just that there was an association.
The flu vaccine may also stimulate a patient’s immune system to step up and fight off COVID-19 more quickly and rigorously than otherwise.
Whatever the explanation, the latest finding seems to offer yet another incentive to get a flu shot.
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