The Economic Benefits of a Flu Vaccination: Prevention is Wealth

This fall and winter, both COVID-19 and influenza will be circulating at the same time. Both are respiratory illnesses and have similar symptoms. Without testing, it will be difficult to tell the difference between the two. Luckily, we have a way to prevent the burden of having two deadly respiratory diseases circulating at the same time. That prevention is the influenza vaccine.

While the influenza vaccine is not 100% effective, it can substantially decrease influenza illness, hospitalizations, and deaths. During the 2018-2019 influenza season, when the vaccine effectiveness was estimated to be only 29%, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that over 50,000 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths were prevented. This was with approximately 49% of the United States population receiving a flu vaccine. Imagine what could be prevented if everyone received a flu vaccine.

One major component to North Dakota’s COVID-19 response has been to preserve hospital capacity. A severe influenza season while COVID-19 is still circulating in North Dakota has the potential to wreak havoc on our already stressed healthcare system. Health care workers are already stretched thin caring for positive COVID-19 patients. Adding influenza increases the number of beds in use, increases the numbers of patients requiring a ventilator, and increases the need for health care workers. Every hospital bed that is not used for an influenza patient can be saved for a COVID-19 patient.

North Dakota makes it a priority to keep schools and childcare centers open and one sure way to keep these establishments functional is to keep their students and staff healthy. Influenza vaccination of children and staff plays an important role to ensuring that parents can continue working and continue to provide for their family.
North Dakota also strives to keep businesses open and when we have healthy employees and thriving businesses, we can ensure a healthy economy. When employees are vaccinated, employers see a drop in absenteeism and it also reduces the workload burden of healthy employees when sick coworkers are unable to perform their duties.

While it may seem like there is so much out of our control during this pandemic, getting vaccinated against influenza is within our control and will protect not only those who receive flu vaccine but also our friends, families, and neighbors. By everyone doing their part and getting vaccinated the citizens of North Dakota can continue to protect the health of our state.

Misty Anderson, DO
North Dakota Medical Association

Q: I’ve been tested, now what?

This information is provided by the North Dakota Department of Health

A: Following testing, you should monitor your health. Your next steps are dependent on your specific situation:

  • If you have COVID-19 symptoms (fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea) and are waiting for your test result, you need to isolate at home away from others.
  • If you are NOT a close contact, don’t have symptoms and are being tested for COVID-19, you need to practice physical distancing, and it is recommended that you take precautions such as mask wearing when you are at work or in public places.
  • If you have been identified by public health as a close contact to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, you need to quarantine at home for 14 days from the last time you were exposed.

When you receive your COVID-19 testing results:

  • If you test positive, you will need to stay home for 10 days from your symptom onset or from the date of the test, if you are asymptomatic.
  • If you test positive, you need to isolate from others until:
    • You are fever-free, without using fever-reducing medications for at least 24 hours AND
    • Your other symptoms have improved AND
    • It has been at least 10 days from the onset of your illness if asymptomatic, it has been 10 days since the collection date of your test.
  • If your test results are negative and you are NOT a close contact, you should continue to practice physical distancing and limit interactions as much as possible. You may participate in everyday activities (work, groceries, etc.) but should limit exposure to non-essential public gatherings/places.

If you have additional questions, feel free to contact the state COVID-19 hotline at 1-866-207-2880, Monday through Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. However, individuals seeking specific medical advice should contact their healthcare provider.

Additionally, you may want to create a list of people you have come in contact with, and places you may have visited. Waiting for your COVID-19 Test Results? Review some key steps that can help. You may also want to proactively automate this process by downloading the Care 19 Diary app to track places you have visited or the Care 19 Alert app to help track if/when you may have come in contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19. Both apps are available for Android and IOS platforms.

More information is available through the ND Department of Health.

Q: When Should I Get Tested? Should I wait until I’ve been exposed to the virus, have symptoms or ‘Just because’?

A: According to the North Dakota Department of Health the following individuals should be tested for COVID-19:

  • Individuals with symptoms (fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea).
  • If you have had contact with a COVID-positive individual, testing should occur ideally 7-10 days after the last exposure or if symptoms occur. If you are asymptomatic but have had contact with an individual who has tested positive, testing is beneficial because asymptomatic individuals can spread the virus.

For more information, visit Where to get a Covid-19 Test.

These parameters for who should receive a COVID-19 test are reflected in CDC guidance. If you are unsure if you should be tested, CDC provides an online self-checker tool that may help you make decisions about when to seek testing and/or medical care.