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Mayo specialist: 'Doubly important' to get a flu shot this year

Anyone over the age of 6 months should receive a flu vaccine.

Get a flu shot. That's the advice medical experts around the country are giving, and a specialist from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, says it's "doubly important" to get the flu vaccine this year. 

"This year it is doubly important that everyone get the flu vaccine because if people have fever and respiratory symptoms in the fall, the first concern is going to be COVID-19," said Dr. Priya Sampathkumar

"The symptoms of the two diseases are hard to tell apart. If you get the flu vaccine, you are less likely to get the flu and less likely to be thought of as a possible COVID-19 case."

The flu vaccine can't stop COVID-19, but it will ultimately – at a minimum – reduce a person's chances of becoming seriously ill with the flu, which may be critical in the event that COVID-19 patients begin to overwhelm hospital capacity. 

Hospital capacity in Minnesota is not currently threatened. According to the Department of Health, any time within 72 hours the state's hospital system can have 2,182 ICU beds available. As of Sept. 3, there were 1,041 patients occupying an ICU bed, meaning less than 50% are currently in use. 

One-hundred-thirty-eight of the 1,041 patients currently occupying an ICU bed has been diagnosed with COVID-19. 

Anyone over the age of 6 months should get a flu shot, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends. 

"As a parent, it is understandable that you always want to do what's best for you child. Vaccines are the best thing you can do to protect your child from illness," Dr. Sampathkumar said. 

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