The Woodlands Edition | October 2020

COVID19 AND THE FLU While caused by separate viruses, the u and COVID-19 can both cause serious disease or death, and they share some symptoms.

HEALTH CARE Experts advise planning for winter u seasonduringCOVID19

SHARED SYMPTOMS

BY BEN THOMPSON

the woods,” Shuford said. “We feel like our health care system is safe at this moment in time, but that any addition of u in our communities or even COVID-19 in our communities could start to impact and stress our healthcare system.” In Montgomery County, general hospital bed usage has remained at or below 1,000 since early Septem- ber—below the county’s operational capacity of 1,275 beds and surge capacity of 1,529 beds, according to data from the Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council. Misti Willingham, public information ocer for the Montgomery County Hospital District, said county health ocials typically see a rise in hospitalizations due to the u and anticipate that potential need for beds as well as increased testing in the community this year. “We are hopeful the CDC guide- lines regarding social distancing, mask-wearing, hand hygiene and surface disinfection will lead to fewer people contracting the seasonal u as well as COVID-19. However, the signs and symptoms are very similar in presentation. Testing is the only way to know for sure,” Willingham said in an email. Dr. Sam Rolon, a Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group Creekside Family Medicine physician in The Wood- lands, also said that residents follow- ing CDC-recommended guidelines related to COVID-19 could provide an additional protection against the spread of the u and related illnesses

Health ocials are preparing for a seasonal wave of inuenza they said could compound public health and health care system capacity concerns this year. Dr. Jennifer Shuford, infectious disease medical ocer for the Texas Department of State Health Services, said that while u season typically peaks between December and March, the timing and severity of the u’s spread every year is uncertain. “Getting the u shot is the single most important thing that a person can do to prevent themselves from getting the u or from severe u and its complications,” she said. Shuford said that while DSHS works every year to share messaging about u preparedness and pre- vention, eorts to inform Texans about u shots and recommended precautions have ramped up ahead of this fall. And in addition to commu- nications from the state organization, Shuford also said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is providing u vaccines for residents of all ages this year in addition to the department’s ongoing Texas Vaccines for Children Program. Shuford said the state department will monitor Texas hospital capacity over the coming months. She said that while COVID-19 hospitalizations throughout Texas decreased in September, increases during the fall and winter may again lead to capacity issues throughout the state. “We don’t feel like we’re out of

Fever

Cough Muscle aches and pains

Sore throat

Runny nose

Headache Shortness of breath

COVID19ONLY

FLUONLY

Loss of smell or taste Symptoms typically appear one to four days after infection. SOURCES: CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF STATE HEALTH SERVICESCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER HOSPITAL CAPACITY Hospital bed availability in Montgomery County remains several hundred below capacity as of early October. General beds in use General beds in use for COVID-19 patients Symptoms typically appear ve days after infection, although symptoms may appear two to 14 days after infection.

Chills

CAPACITY: 1,275

1,009

966

953

915 943 942 934

872 890 908 875

855

842 828 838

767

731

SEPT. 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 OCT. 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 SOURCE: SOUTHEAST TEXAS REGIONAL ADVISORY COUNCILCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER 28 40 39 46 43 42 43 38 40 37 33 41 45 44 56 51 51

this year. “Patients that might just have a cough and shortness of breath from allergies or asthma, they might get screened for COVID and they prob- ably should be,” Rolon said. “They might get screened for u this year and they probably should be.” Local and state ocials advise that anyone ages 6 months or older get

their u shots in October, unless they have a conrmed medical reason not to. Willingham said the county hos- pital district oers u vaccinations for uninsured, underinsured and Medicaid-recipient county residents. “We might still have a very severe u season,” Shuford said. “It is still very important for people to get their u shots for this u season.”

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THE WOODLANDS EDITION • OCTOBER 2020

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