Don't forget your flu shot!

Illustration of sinus cavities with flu germs entering

Experts urge cancer patients and others to get both the flu shot and a COVID-19 booster as soon as possible.

With the persistence of COVID-19, getting your flu shot this year is especially important. While influenza (flu) season typically runs from October through April, New York State saw an early and aggressive spread of the flu in September, a sharp contrast to the previous two flu seasons. Both influenza and COVID-19 are contagious diseases of the respiratory system that have similar symptoms, making it difficult to distinguish between the two viral infections. Symptoms of both, which can range from mild to severe, include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may also experience vomiting and diarrhea. People can be contagious even before they start showing symptoms.

In most cases, the flu quickly causes illness, and gets better within a week. For some people, however, it is more serious. Every year thousands of people in the U.S. are hospitalized and die of complications from the flu. Flu can be especially dangerous in people with cancer and a weakened immune system. Other people at risk include young children, the elderly and those with lung or heart disease. The best way to prevent influenza is to get your yearly flu shot.

Roswell Park encourages patients to get their flu shots every fall if medically cleared by their Roswell Park physician and also recommends getting the bivalent COVID-19 vaccine booster which helps protect against serious illness from coronavirus and the Omicron variants. You can get both shots at the same time.

"Everyone should take the opportunity to get the influenza vaccine as soon as possible," says Katherine Mullin, MD, Director of Infection Control and Prevention at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. "If you had a recent COVID-19 infection or are not eligible for the COVID-19 booster at this time, please do not delay getting the flu shot in an effort to bundle the two vaccines together. This will put you at increased risk of acquiring influenza in the interim as it takes several weeks for the protective effect of the vaccine to be active."

Please contact your Roswell Park physician about being vaccinated. We also encourage those who live with you to get a flu shot each year. This can reduce their chance of getting the flu and infecting you. Flu shots are already available at many local pharmacies. We encourage patients who can be vaccinated to get their flu shot as soon as possible.