Illinois' top doctor urged residents to prioritize getting their flu vaccination Monday as she revealed that some patients in the state have contracted flu and COVID-19 coinfections.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, didn't provide a number of affected patients at the state's daily coronavirus briefing, but noted "we're not anywhere near the peak of flu season."
Coinfections have been reported in other parts of the country, such as El Paso, Texas, which emerged as a COVID-19 hotspot in the previous months, CNBC reported.
As part of National Influenza Vaccination Week, which started Monday, Dr. Ezike encourages everyone six months and older to receive the seasonal flu vaccine to avoid coinfection.
“Not only could being infected with both a flu virus and the virus that causes COVID-19 result in severe health complications for individuals, it also places a tremendous burden on our health care system and health care workers who are being stretched due to the increase in COVID-19 cases," Dr. Ezike said in a news release.
This summer, Dr. Allison Arwady, the commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, warned that a normal flu season on top of the ongoing pandemic, even at a 'relatively low level' could be a 'major problem.'"
But state health officials are optimistic they'll see lower flu numbers this year, because mitigation strategies to prevent COVID-19, such as wearing facial coverings, are also effective at reducing the spread of the flu.
"We're hoping that benefit of the mask will definitely extend to the flu hospitalizations as well," Ezike said. "So keep wearing that mask. We're accomplishing many good things in terms of cutting down infectious trends."