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What is going to happen when the influenza hits while COVID-19 remains a rampant problem in the United States? No one really knows for sure, according to a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Here’s what is known: COVID-19 cases continue to rise, and more than 200,000 Americans have lost their lives because of the disease. Meanwhile, many states, including West Virginia, continue to push toward trying to open in-person classes in more schools. The flu, in a nonpandemic year, kills tens of thousands of people in the United States. So, as flu season nears, West Virginians need to brace for being hit by two viruses at once — both of which are completely different and not treatable by the same means.

This comes down to doing what you can to mitigate the risk for yourself and doing what you can to protect those around you. Unlike COVID-19, there’s a very effective and readily available vaccine for the flu. Health experts are advising everyone to get their flu shot. We would second that suggestion. While it doesn’t completely prevent the flu in every case, the vaccine lessens the severity of the illness in those who get it. Hospitals certainly don’t need a surge in flu and COVID-19 cases at the same time.

As West Virginia’s coronavirus czar, Dr. Clay Marsh, mentioned last week, late fall and winter will be a crucial time. Dropping temperatures force more people indoors and create an easier path for illnesses to spread. The flu shot helps protect against this. Of course, West Virginians also can’t forget to frequently wash their hands, practice social distancing and wear masks to protect against COVID-19.

Everyone will have to be hyper-vigilant this fall and winter as the seasonal flu potentially complicates the public health landscape with COVID-19 still very much a crisis. Getting a flu shot goes a long way toward alleviating the situation.