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Episode #59 - Flu & COVID-19

22 October 2021 | Science conversation

Summary

How would you know if you have the flu or COVID-19? Should you take both flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine if these are available to you? How does WHO decide on the composition of the flu vaccine? Dr Sylvie Briand explains in Science in 5 this week.

Podcast

Transcript

Vismita Gupta-Smith 

00:00:06:13 - 00:00:29:21

As flu season is starting in many parts of the world, how would you know if you have flu or COVID-19? Hello and welcome to Science in 5. I'm Vismita Gupta-Smith. We are talking to Dr. Sylvie Briand about flu and COVID-19 today. Welcome, Sylvie. Sylvie, let's start with how would people know if they have caught the flu or COVID-19? 

Dr Sylvie Briand

00:00:30:02 - 00:01:06:18

So the flu is very common, especially in the season, and usually the symptoms are fever, headache, muscle ache, but also upper respiratory symptoms such as sneezing and coughing. For COVID-19 it's the same symptoms, basically, but in addition, we have specific symptoms such as anosmia, which is a lack of smell and ageusia, which is a lack of taste. And many people, especially young people, have experienced these additional and specific symptoms for COVID-19. 

00:01:07:07 - 00:01:44:04

But sometimes people have very few symptoms, whether it's for flu or for COVID-19. It really depends on your level of immunity. What is important to know really for these two diseases, is that the prevention measures work for both of them, and especially washing hands is very important. Then ventilation of rooms when you are in crowded rooms, with a lot of people in particular to open the window. Also wearing masks if you cannot open the window and maintain physical distancing. And both diseases are really preventable if we apply those measures.

Vismita Gupta-Smith

00:01:44:18 - 00:02:01:06

So Sylvie talked to us about the groups that are most at risk from the flu and also talk to us about the safety of taking the flu vaccine. For those people who do have access to the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine, is it safe to take it?

Dr Sylvie Briand

00:02:01:22 - 00:02:40:25

So the group most at risk for influenza, are elderly, people with underlying conditions such as chronic respiratory disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and these are a similar group as for COVID-19. But for flu in addition, pregnant women and very young children, infants are also more at risk for severe disease. So is it safe to administer a flu vaccine and COVID-19 at the same time? Yes, we have now a few studies that showed that it is safe to have both vaccine at the same time. 

00:02:41:16 - 00:02:47:28

But of course, people need to check with their physician about their indication to take both vaccines.

Vismita Gupta-Smith

00:02:48:19 - 00:02:57:27

Sylvie, talk to us about how the composition of the influenza vaccine is decided and also speak to us a little more about the safety and efficacy of the flu vaccine.

Dr Sylvie Briand

00:02:58:11 - 00:03:39:23

There are many, many different influenza viruses out there and actually they change very often. And so what is very important is to know what are the predominant viruses in a given setting so that we can take the antigen of this virus to compose the vaccine. So that's why we have around the world. 136 laboratories constantly monitoring the circulating viruses and twice a year, we have experts meeting to define what are the predominant viruses in certain places of the world.

00:03:40:08 - 00:04:13:12

So we have two vaccine composition meeting per year: one for the northern hemisphere and one for the southern hemisphere. So the flu vaccine has existed for many decades, and it's a very safe vaccine. But it's very important to have these expert meetings to define the composition of the vaccine, to make sure that we put in the vaccine the component that will really better protect people against the circulating viruses at a given time. And this vaccine is very recommended to at risk people so that they can be protected against severe flu.

00:04:14:09 - 00:04:15:16

and death when the season starts. 

Vismita Gupta-Smith

00:04:16:03 - 00:04:23:24

Thank you, Sylvie. That was Science in 5 today. Until next time then. Stay safe, stay healthy and stick with science.

 
 
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