TAMPA, Fla. -- Leading doctors are asking people who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 to request a rapid flu test in addition to being screened for SARS-CoV-2. Medical providers say it's possible to have both influenza and COVID-19 at the same time.
Doctors say some of the symptoms, such as fever, shortness of breath and cough are present in both flu and COVID-19, so it's critical as we approach the height of Florida's flu season, to be tested for both.
"People may say, 'hey, I've got a flu test, and I'm done; that's all I need and I don't have to worry about getting COVID,'" said Dr. Nishant Anand, BayCare's chief medical officer. "But we are seeing in the medical literature that people can actually have both flu and COVID."
This comes as healthcare providers are encouraging those six months of age and older, with some rare exceptions, to get their flu vaccination.
They say it is safe to get your flu shot despite COVID-19 concerns, and it could help keep hospital emergency rooms from being overwhelmed by both flu and COVID-19 cases at once.
"You don't want to have flu, in addition to COVID, stressing the medical community and especially the healthcare system, that's number one," Anand said. "Number two is the flu vaccine is has a relatively safe profile. We've been doing it for years and years."
This comes as the latest report from the Florida Department of Health shows that while reports of symptoms of COVID-19 coming into emergency rooms are down, reports of flu symptoms are on the rise.
However, over the past month, there are still low numbers of flu cases reported across Florida as of Week 40 of the state's weekly flu report.
Most people who have insurance will be able to get their flu shot free of charge at any doctor's office or store pharmacy that provides vaccinations. Without insurance, you can expect to pay anywhere from $40 to $60 for this year's vaccination.
The Florida Department of Health has a list of places where you can find a flu shot near you.