Infectious diseases expert: "COVID is much more lethal than the flu"

Posted at 8:25 PM, Oct 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-08 20:25:31-04

ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. (WKBW) — Doctors across the United States are worried the upcoming flu season is going to make the COVID crisis much more complicated.

“COVID is much more lethal than the flu,” said Dr. Thomas Russo, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Medicine at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo.

The infectious diseases expert predicts “at least tenfold more lethal.” Worldwide, Johns Hopkins Medicine reports, more than a million people have died from COVID-19. In turn, the World Health Organization said just a fraction (290,000-650,000) of that number succumb to the flu every year.

“Almost all of us are susceptible to getting COVID whereas with the flu, since most of us have had some combination of prior infection and therefore natural immunity or vaccination, a much smaller segment of the population is susceptible,” said Dr. Russo.

Nationwide medical experts are warning about the potential of a “twindemic” as flu season begins.

7 Eyewitness News Reporter Nikki DeMentri asked Dr. Russo: “Is that something you fear would happen here in the state as well as Western New York?”
Dr. Russo responded: “We’re concerned about the possibility, but I have faith in our community.”

Western New York Immediate Care Medical Director, Dr. Mark Podlas said this flu season is “uncharted territory.”

“With a significant illness such as COVID, the flu becomes more important to guard against,” Dr. Podlas said.

Medical experts agree one of the easiest ways to do that is by getting a flu shot. WNY Immediate Care offers the vaccines without an appointment. Dr. Podlas said he feels people are “more cognizant” this year of the vaccine as COVID lingers.

“The flu shot is paramount. Unfortunately unlike COVID where when an individual gets the disease where you’re doing nothing more than re-actively treating the disease, with flu you can be proactive,” Dr. Podlas said.

At Buffalo’s Amherst Street Wegmans location, pharmacy manager Alex Caron estimates 50-100 people come in every day to the in-store clinic or the pharmacy for a flu shot.

“The flu shot demand has been greater than ever which is awesome,” said Caron. He continued, “When they get their flu vaccines, it’ll reduce the strain on a potential healthcare system on some sparse resources that we may have so we can deal with other illnesses potentially like COVID.”

Anyone six months and older is recommended to get a flu vaccine. At Wegmans, the vaccine can be given to those two years and older. Most insurances cover the cost in full.

“I think people are concerned, but it’s again one of the best and easiest things you can do to put your best foot forward going into this unknown season,” Caron said.

This Saturday both Wegmans and Western New York Immediate Care will hold drive-thru flu clinics.

From 10am-2pm on 10/7, the Amherst Street Wegmans will provide flu shots outside the store.

Both Western New York Immediate Care locationsin Amherst and Orchard Park will also hold a drive-thru flu shot clinic from 9am-12pm for adults 19 years and older.