Normally, we hear a lot about the flu this time of year. But recently, there’s been much more attention on Ebola. WABE’s Michelle Wirth reports on what affect that could have on this year’s flu season.
Matt Spears is getting a flu shot at his doctor’s office. Spears wants to avoid getting his 10-month-old daughter sick. This year, he’s only heard a little about why he should get a flu shot.
“I’ve heard more about Ebola than I’ve heard about anything in the last month or two.”
But Spears is more worried about the flu.
“The reality is the flu kills more people than Ebola does by far, and the chances of getting the flu are so much greater in comparison.”
But others remain concerned about Ebola. Saju Mathew is a primary care physician for Piedmont Healthcare. He’s had at least 10 patients who worried they might have the deadly virus.
“Some stories have been: I was in New York visiting last week, I know a physician there was diagnosed with Ebola, I’ve been on the subways. I’ve had a low grade fever. I’ve traveled; so really all the fears that should really bring a patient in thinking they might have flu is now bringing the patient in thinking they have Ebola.”
Mathew wants use those concerns to get more vaccinated against the flu.
“It gives us an opportunity as physicians to say listen, I understand your fear about Ebola, but while you’re here let me talk about what you’re really should be worried about and that is flu.”
But since some flu symptoms mirror those of Ebola, he said his office has been trained to deal with both. Right now, he says Ebola hasn’t affected its flu vaccination rates. But the DeKalb County Health Department says all the talk of Ebola may actually encourage more flu vaccinations.
DeKalb District director Dr. Sandra Elizabeth Ford said this year her department has had about four times the requests for flu shots.
“We’ve got this terror about Ebola and the fact that there’s no vaccine available, that really the only treatment at this point is supportive care, and yet, we do have this vaccine that is available for this other disease that we can prevent, so I think it’s just that feeling of having control over something.“
In a statement, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said,
“CDC is very concerned about influenza and the annual toll it takes on the United States each year and while many Americans may be focused on Ebola right now, CDC and public health and medical care professionals who understand the risks from influenza continue to work to ensure people are vaccinated this year…Our efforts to promote influenza vaccination this season have been very similar to past years. Because several of our staff who work on influenza are also supporting our response to Ebola, we are adapting our flu vaccination promotion plans for later in the season to minimize time demand from our subject matter experts. For instance, placing more focus on vaccination promotion activities using digital media platforms. If our early-season vaccination coverage estimates (to be released in December) indicate that vaccine uptake is lagging we are prepared to adapt and increase our vaccination promotion activities accordingly.”