By Dr. Mallika Marshall

BOSTON (CBS) – A group of 12,000 doctors, scientists and public health experts delivered a simple message on Thursday: get a flu shot. As flu season approaches, health experts are stressing the need to get a flu shot more than ever.

“If there’s ever a year that you need to get a flu vaccine, get your kids vaccinated, this is the year,” said Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

The Infectious Diseases of America says the big concern is that the flu will overwhelm a healthcare system already dealing with COVID-19. Both viruses have many of the same symptoms and there may not be enough rapid tests that can detect which is which.

“If we run out of those tests and someone shows up, particularly a high risk individual for care, lets say at an urgent care center and they cant tell the difference, that’s going to be problematic,” said Dr. Leonard Mermel of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

The CDC estimated between 24,000 and 62,000 Americans died from the flu last year. There is hope this season could be mild like it’s been in some countries in the Southern Hemisphere.

Health measures taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as mask-wearing and social distancing, could be keeping flu cases down. But, health experts say we can’t pin our hopes on that.

“We may not be as vigilant in some areas of the country here in the U.S. as other communities, based on our independence and our American spirit,” said Dr. Mermel.

Health experts say it is possible to have the flu and COVID-19 at the same time, however so far the frequency of that happening is relatively low.

Dr. Mallika Marshall

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