Travel allied healthcare providers are well aware that flu season is one of the busiest times of the year for most hospitals. That said, many people are wondering how the current rise of COVID-19 cases throughout the country will impact hospitalizations in the fall and winter months ahead. Can we anticipate people being hospitalized more than once this flu season if they are infected with both viruses separately? And what if patients become infected with both viruses simultaneously?
Nobody can accurately predict exactly how many people will be infected with either virus. Current Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data, however, suggests that both viruses are likely to infect millions of people during flu season. That’s why many hospitals are currently securing the travel allied staff, such as registered respiratory therapists (RRTs), they will need ahead of time. Additionally, after several months of being on the front lines of the COVID-19 fight, some allied healthcare providers have indicated they are already in burnout phase and need to take a break before their next assignment. Their absence will further strain allied healthcare travelers and the hospitals that employ them. These are all reasons why travel allied healthcare professionals, especially RRTs, should be on high alert for heavier than normal workloads beginning this fall. RRTs, who normally spend much of their time treating patients with COPD, asthma, lung cancer, emphysema, bronchitis, pneumonia and other respiratory ailments, play an important role in treating patients infected with both COVID-19 and the flu.
Can Patients Be Infected Simultaneously by Both the Flu and COVID-19?
As allied healthcare professionals, we are fully aware that patients can be infected by more than one virus at a time. According to one study, co-infection with an additional respiratory pathogen such as the flu occurred in more than twenty percent of COVID-19-positive patients who presented with a respiratory viral syndrome in the early stages of the pandemic. Whether that number will increase this flu season is not yet known, but it seems logical given the recent exponential growth in COVID-19 cases nationwide. Patients fighting both infections at once will require more care and potentially longer hospitalizations than patients fighting just one of these viruses. Additionally, there is also the possibility that a patient could be infected with the flu, recover, and then later be infected with COVID-19, or vice versa. In this case, it is possible that the patient could need to be hospitalized on two separate occasions, weeks or months apart. In either case, the prevalence of both of these viruses in the general population means that hospitals must be proactive by securing the extra staff they may need now, before an already low supply of available allied healthcare providers disappears.
Will Measures Meant to Prevent COVID-19 Prevent the Flu?
If there is a silver lining in the fact that both of these deadly viruses will be in heavy circulation this fall and winter, perhaps it is the knowledge that the actions many are already taking to stop the spread of COVID-19 will also help prevent the spread of flu. Social distancing, handwashing and mask-wearing are currently fairly widespread and proven to help prevent the spread of both. The other side of that coin, of course, is that people not adhering to preventative measures for either of these viruses will be more susceptible to both.
Will a Flu Vaccine Help Prevent COVID-19 Infections?
Unfortunately, a flu vaccine will not help prevent a COVID-19 infection. Receiving a flu vaccine can help reduce sickness, hospitalization and death, and that is more important this year than ever before. Not only will it help patients lower their own risk for experiencing one or both of these illnesses, it will also help reduce the burden on travel allied healthcare providers who must treat them.
Secure Your Flu Season Assignment Now to Guarantee Your Preferred Location
Because many hospitals and healthcare facilities are staffing early in preparation for what is expected to be an unusually busy flu season, travel allied healthcare providers with a specific location preference are advised to secure an assignment now before those openings are filled.
Ready to reserve your travel allied healthcare assignment at the facility or location you most desire this flu season? Search jobs for registered respiratory therapists and other allied healthcare professionals, today.