NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The New Mexico Department of Health has announced the first confirmed flu case in the state on Thursday. The department states that this marks the beginning of the 2020-2021 flu season as the state and nation see a widespread increase in the number of people infected with COVID-19.
NMDOH reports that the flu case was confirmed by the NMDOH Scientific Laboratory in Albuquerque and is that of a teenager living in southeast New Mexico. This is the first of many flu cases that are expected to be diagnosed in the upcoming weeks and months.
Health officials state that unlike COVID-19 that currently has no vaccine available, the flu shot is different every fall and is created to slow or stop the most common types of flu that are expected to spread during the fall and winter months. Flu season starts every October and can sometimes last as long as May of the following year depending on the flu type.
NMDOH officials say at this time it’s too soon to tell how severe this flu season will be. NMDOH reports that the flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses and have many similar symptoms but are caused by different viruses.
It is possible to have both viruses at the same time. If you have symptoms of respiratory illness such as fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, or difficulty breaking, NMDOH recommends that you get both a flu and a COVID-19 test.
The Department of Health recommends that all New Mexicans six months and older get the annual flu shot which is the best way to protect yourself and others from the complications, hospitalizations, or death that flu can cause. The following groups are strongly recommended to get their annual flu shot as they are at high-risk for complications from flu or because they live with or care for people at high-risk for developing flu-related complications:
- Children younger than five but especially children younger than 2-years-old
- Pregnant women (all trimesters) and up to two weeks postpartum
- People ages 65 and older
- People of any age with medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, lung or heart disease, and those who are immunocompromised
- People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
- People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu including healthcare personnel and caregivers of babies younger than six months
- American Indians and Alaska Natives
- People who are morbidly obese
People in these groups should also consider to see their healthcare provider as early as possible to be evaluated for antiviral medication if they develop flu symptoms. Health officials say that the sooner these medications are started, the better the chance of preventing serious complications.
People who have the flu may have some or all of the following symptoms:
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runner or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea though this is more common in children than adults
NMDOH reminds residents that in order to avoid catching the flu or passing it on to others, everyone should wash their hands frequently, cover their mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, and to stay home when ill. Masks and face coverings will help to prevent flu spread in addition to COVID-19.
Flu vaccines are offerend in many locations including healthcare provider offices, pharmacies, hospitals, and public health offices in addition to some worksites and schools. Contact your healthcare provider or pharmacist about getting a flu shot.
The Health Department offers vaccinations for individuals without insurance or who are otherwise not able to get vaccinated. Those with Medicaid or other insurance who go to public health offices are asked to bring their insurance card.
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