Halloween, You, COVID-19 and the Flu

On a mid-October South Florida day, the sightof buzzards circling lazily high in the sky is a sure sign that cooler air ison its way and Halloween – and, yes, the holidays! – are just around the corner.It’s also the start of flu season, and doctors are worried that this year couldbe especially challenging because of the coronavirus pandemic. More peoplegoing to parties. More families gathering for the holidays. More ways to spreadCOVID-19 and the flu.

Douglas J. Inciarte, M.D., FAAFP, family medicine physician and program director of the West Kendall Baptist Hospital-FIU Family Medicine Program

“We’re already seeing flu cases on the rise in our practice,” says Douglas J. Inciarte, M.D., FAAFP, a family medicine physician and program director of the West Kendall Baptist Hospital-FIU Family Medicine Residency Program. “And now, with kids back in school and more people going to bars and restaurants again, we may anticipate an increase in infections from both flu and COVID-19. If we don’t maintain current CDC guidelines on safety precautions, our community might be surprised to see a surge around Thanksgiving.”

First up on the calendar is Halloween, however,and that will look a little different this year, Dr. Inciarte expects. Headvises using common sense and following the same CDC precautions as if youwere going to a restaurant, a mall, a theme park or anywhere with a lot ofpeople in close proximity. “Maintain social distancing. Wear a mask – make itpart of the costume. And use hand sanitizer after receiving candy.”

Rather than having youngtrick-or-treaters knock on your door, you may want to set up tables outsidewith individual bags of candy and a bottle of hand sanitizer. “Get creative andhave some fun with it,” Dr. Inciarte says. “Everyone understands we have to dothings a little differently this year.”

Is it COVID-19 or the Flu? Because symptoms of the flu are largely similar to those of COVID-19, getting an accurate diagnosis is especially important, according to Dr. Inciarte.

“Fever, runny nose, cough, sore throat,body aches, malaise and fatigue – all of these are symptoms of both the flu andCOVID-19,” Dr. Inciarte says. “When a patient presents with any of thesesymptoms, we have to assume it could be COVID-19 and test for both. I expectwe’ll be doing a lot of testing this fall and winter.”

If a patient with any of these symptomsis also experiencing loss of sense of smell and taste, headaches orgastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, that may wellindicate a COVID-19 infection, Dr. Inciarte says.

All three of the most common COVID-19 tests – Rapid Antigen, PCR and Antibody – are available at BaptistHealth Urgent Care and Urgent Care Express locations, according to LuisBellmas, vice president of Baptist Outpatient Services. “Visit the locationnearest to you, and our providers will conduct a quick medical exam todetermine the best testing option for you.”

“Freeflu shots are also available at all of these locations,” Mr. Bellmas adds. “Weencourage everyone in South Florida to get theirs as soon as possible.”

Schedule your free flu shot today at BaptistHealth.net/Flu. For more information about COVID testing, visit BaptistHealth.net/CovidTest.

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