Combating Rising Flu, COVID-19 Cases in the US


A pair of experts discussed the importance of differentiating early signs of either disease on a recent podcast.

After minimal influenza activity in the 2020-21 season, it appears that flu may resume normal annual levels of activity and spread through the beginning of 2022—a difficult development for the US, where cases of COVID-19 have more than doubled record-highs in the last week.

Unfortunately, the risk of combating increasing cases of the flu amid the COVID-19 pandemic requires clinicians identify and differentiate either respiratory virus from one another so as to assure treatment is timely, safe and effective.

In the most recent episode of Lungcast, Al Rizzo, MD, Chief Medical Officer of the American Lung Association spoke with Dr. Shantanu Agrawal, Chief Health Officer of Anthem, Inc., on the burdens of addressing simultaneous—and possibly coinciding—COVID-19 and flu infections in the US population.

“This could be quite a challenging year, and I think we in health care—our frontline clinicians, particularly—have to be prepared for what could happen,” Agrawal said.

As Agrawal explained in the clip above, COVID-19 and flu present with a few differentiating factors but overall are “really not discriminating from a diagnostics standpoint.”

“What’s important is testing for each, and we do at this point have really great tests for both viruses, antigen and PCR,” he stressed.“If you see flu-like symptoms you’ve got to, as the bedside clinician, implement both a flu and COVID-19 test.”

Agrawal and Rizzo also discussed viable treatment options for influenza—which similarly to COVID-19 are most benefitted by timely diagnosis and initiation.

“Another thing I’m stressing to our patients and from the Lung Association standpoint is the importance of finding out the diagnosis early,” Rizzo said. “Both influenza and COVID-19 have interventions…that can really slow down or lessen the severity of disease.”

Lungcast is a monthly respiratory health podcast series from the ALA produced by HCPLive. Listen to the full episode with Dr. Agrawal below or on your favorite podcast platforms:

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