PABLO — The turbulent dark cloud of the of COVID-19 still hangs low in the viral atmosphere raining down ever-changing mutations on the American populace that are further churned by the against the scientific knowledge wind politics. As a result, preventive measures - such as masking, social distancing and vaccinations - have been whisked out of the common-sense stratosphere into the dungeons of misinformation and uniformed debate that in part puts such things as horse de-wormer over COVID vaccines.
Add to the storm is many state government administrations — Montana included — lifting the proven protective measure mandates that kept the COVID relatively in check last year, and resulted in very, very few cases of flu last year. And most importantly in-the-face rants attacks against the frontline medical personnel, local public health departments, school boards, county and city governments, and others with the safety of people forefront of their mission responsibilities.
The Flathead Nation Tribal Council is considering making COVID vaccinations mandatory for its affiliated workforce in order to further provide a safe work environment. As Pablo District Tribal Councilman Martin Charlo alluded to at the Fall Quarterly, if that happens and members of the workforce don’t comply that there would be repercussions, and that those folks should prepare to look for work elsewhere.
The Tribal Council already requires its affiliated workforce and public to wear masks in all tribal buildings. Mission Valley Power and Séliš Ksanka QÍispé Dam require its workforce to wear hard hats. It’s about personal safety and workforce safety as would be a Tribal Council vaccination mandate.
“This is a life and death matter,” Charlo said. “And it’s a choice to get a vaccine and if you choose not to then there may be repercussions; maybe you can choose to work for a different organization.”
Locally, the Tribal Health Department is one of the local area bastions against infestation of COVID. And all though they cannot mandate vaccinations they can encourage THD beneficiaries to do so and offer them venues and opportunities to get vaccinated for COVID and other important vaccines.
One of the other important vaccines is the flu vaccine, and since it is the beginning of flu season, last Wednesday at Salish Kootenai College, THD held such an outreach event with its drive-through flu vaccination. And the bottom line was that it’s doubly important to get the flu vaccine because of COVID. Last year’s flu season didn’t have a big bite because of the nationally shutdown and personal safety precautions but that is expected to change.
“[The] low flu activity was likely due to the widespread implementation of COVID-19 preventive measures like masks, physical distancing and staying home,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said last Thursday at a briefing announcing flu vaccination efforts. “Because of so little disease last year, population immunity is likely lower, putting us all at risk of increased disease this year.”
Add to that the recent COVID spike has resulted in frontline health care professional exhaustion and limited access to hospital critical care units. All of that and vaccine hesitation is on the THD front burner as it embarks on its annual flu vaccine effort.
“The flu virus kills thousands of people every year. It is really important to get a flu shot annually, especially for people with underlying conditions,” said Chelsea Kleinmeyer, THD Commission Corps RN, at the flu drive-through. “It’s doubly important to get one this year because the COVID virus is still out there and we don’t really know what is going to happen with the combination of the flu and COVID. That is why the best defense to protect against the flu and COVID is to get vaccinated and practice the other precautions against COVID.”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic begin in the United States in early 2000, more than 700,000 people have died as a result of the virus, approximately one in 500 people.
In the 1918 influenza pandemic attributed to the H1N1/A virus that began in the United States March 1918 came in four waves through 1920, killed approximately 675,000, one in 150 Americans.
“People used to trust public health officials but has been an up-tick in the politicization of that due to a lot of misinformation out there. I have never seen anything like this before and that has eroded the trust in the public health profession. This has brought out the worst in us. Last year during the shutdown, people stepped up and took this seriously. That brought out the best in us,” Kleinmeyer said. “We continue to do the best we can for the people based on facts and science. Many people are making their healthcare decisions based on what they feel about healthcare based on misinformation. They say there are lots of reasons that the vaccines are unsafe. We continue to struggle with that, and we can’t protect people if they don’t get vaccinated.”
The proof in that is in the pudding, as the present surge in hospitalizations and deaths are largely the result of the COVID-19 Delta variant, and its is overwhelmingly infecting unvaccinated people.
The drive-through flu vaccination had ebbs and flows throughout the day, with an early morning rush that started with the 10 a.m. opening then a taper till noonish, followed by an increase and taper at around 3 p.m. By then well over 300 people had been vaccinated. Last year 850 people were vaccinated, among those were 106 non-tribal people vaccinated by the Lake County Public Health Department. The department didn’t participate this year.
Tribal Health will continue with its flu vaccination efforts at its Polson and St. Ignatius clinics and in reservation communities via its mobile healthcare van. Tribal Health will announce location dates and times well in advance.
What is Influenza (Flu)
Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year.
Flu signs and symptoms usually come on suddenly. People who are sick with flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny 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.
How Flu Spreads
Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by tiny droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes.
Onset of Symptoms
The time from when a person is exposed and infected with flu to when symptoms begin is about 2 days, but can range from about 1 to 4 days.
Most people who get flu will recover in a few days to less than two weeks, but some people will develop complications (such as pneumonia) as a result of flu, some of which can be life-threatening and result in death.
Sinus and ear infections are examples of moderate complications from flu, while pneumonia is a serious flu complication that can result from either flu virus infection alone or from co-infection of flu virus and bacteria. Other possible serious complications triggered by flu can include inflammation of the heart (myocarditis), brain (encephalitis) or muscle tissues (myositis, rhabdomyolysis), and multi-organ failure (for example, respiratory and kidney failure). Flu virus infection of the respiratory tract can trigger an extreme inflammatory response in the body and can lead to sepsis, the body’s life-threatening response to infection. Flu also can make chronic medical problems worse. For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have flu, and people with chronic heart disease may experience a worsening of this condition triggered by flu.
People at Higher Risk from Flu
Anyone can get sick with flu, even healthy people, and serious problems related to flu can happen to anyone at any age, but some people are at higher risk of developing serious flu-related complications if they get sick. This includes people 65 years and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), pregnant people and children younger than 5 years, but especially those younger than 2 years old.
Period of Contagiousness
You may be able to spread flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.
People with flu are most contagious in the first 3-4 days after their illness begins.
Some otherwise healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick.
Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others for an even longer time.
Similarities and Differences between Flu and COVID-19?
What is the difference between Influenza (Flu) and COVID-19?
Influenza (flu) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a coronavirus first identified in 2019, and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses.
COVID-19 seems to spread more easily than flu. However, as more people become fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 should slow down. More information is available about COVID-19 vaccines and how well they work.
Compared to flu, COVID-19 can cause more serious illnesses in some people. COVID-19 can also take longer before people show symptoms and people can be contagious for longer. More information about differences between flu and COVID-19 is available in the different sections below.
Because some of the symptoms of flu, COVID-19, and other respiratory illnesses are similar, the difference between them cannot be made based on symptoms alone. Testing is needed to tell what the illness is and to confirm a diagnosis. People can be infected with both flu and the virus that causes COVID-19 at the same time and have symptoms of both influenza and COVID-19.
While more is learned every day about COVID-19 and the virus that causes it, there are still things, such as post-COVID conditions, that are unknown. This page compares COVID-19 and flu, given the best available information to date.
Both COVID-19 and flu can have varying degrees of signs and symptoms, ranging from no symptoms (asymptomatic) to severe symptoms. Common symptoms that COVID-19 and flu share include:
- Fever or feeling feverish/having chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle pain or body aches
- Vomiting and diarrhea
Change in or loss of taste or smell, although this is more frequent with COVID-19.