Doctors say getting hit with a surge in both coronavirus and flu cases could be bad news for hospitals.By Amy Wadas

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The U.S. flu season typically doesn’t start until winter, but most places start distributing the vaccine in September. Internal Medicine Doctor Brian Lamb with AHN Primary Care said the pandemic means we shouldn’t wait to get our shots.

“It’s one of those things — if people can remember to get it done early, it’s better than waiting,” said Dr. Brian Lamb. “There’s a huge surge in hospitalizations with flu patients throughout the winter months. We were actually in the midst of one last year when COVID hit.”

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Another surge is something we want to avoid.

“If there is a flu surge and a COVID surge and they hit at the same time, that is potentially going to overwhelm our hospital facilities,” said Dr. Richard Zimmerman, a professor of family medicine at the University of Pittsburgh.

Without a vaccine for coronavirus, preventing the flu becomes even more important.

“There’s some data from China that influenza and COVID co-infections lead to more severity and worse outcomes so we don’t need people to be co-infected,” said Zimmerman.

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If you end you end up getting infected with either illness, the Allegheny County Health Department said it might be hard to initially determine what you have.

“Many symptoms of COVID-19 look very similar to influenza and it will be really helpful if our entire county gets vaccinated this year to reduce the risk of flu,” said Allegheny County Health Department Director Dr. Debra Bogen.

Some nationwide chains are taking additional safety measures when it comes to distributing the flu shot this year due to coronavirus.

Walgreens is exploring using off-site vaccination clinics which may include mobile, curbside or drive-thru sites.

AHN said it’s also figuring out how it will distribute flu shots this year and plans to have information in the next month.

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Rite Aid says it’s already ordered 40 percent more shots to keep up with demand.