Covid-19 + the Seasonal Flu: The Perfect Storm?

Two days ago I was watching Lopez Obrador, the President of Mexico’s press conference, and, like every Tuesday, the program was focused on the latest Covid-19 news. It was very interesting as Dr. Hugo Gatell the representative from the Secretary of Health gave his perspective regarding the possible future effects of the pandemic. As a side note, a couple of weeks ago, Dr. Gatell was invited by the WHO to become a member of the panel of experts on the coronavirus. He accepted that invitation.

He showed on a graph that there are positive signs that the virus is slowing down in Mexico with regards to new cases and deaths and that this first wave could potentially die out by the end of August. The not such good news is, that there could very well be the second wave in October. He also mentioned that this particular virus could be with us for years, with the potential of the virus regrouping and popping up in different countries at different times.

I personally have been thinking about this with regards to the upcoming seasonal flu season that hits this part of the world, sometime around late October or November and lasts until April. What’s going to happen if Covid-19 is still around?
Fortunately, one of the members of the media asked that question. Dr. Gatell responded that, if that happens, we could be faced with 2 viruses, causing havoc, at the same time (the perfect storm?). He commented that in 2018, 27,000 people died from the seasonal flu, in Mexico alone. That figure happens to be very similar to the number of deaths from covid-19, reported so far. The accumulation of deaths from the 2 viruses could put a big strain on the hospital system in Mexico which has, until today, been able to deal quite successfully with the present pandemic.

Questions:

Since both viruses have similar symptoms, If I get sick, how will I be able to distinguish between the two? Will that uncertainty increases my fear and anxiety, something I definitely don’t need more of?

There is always the flu vaccine but, according to data from the U.S. Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness Network on 4,112 children and adults with acute respiratory illness during October 23, 2019 – January 25, 2020, the overall estimated effectiveness of seasonal influenza vaccine for preventing medically attended, laboratory-confirmed, influenza virus infection was 45%.

My number one fear, and maybe yours too, is getting seriously ill and/or dying from covid-19. I definitely do not want to end up in a hospital. To me, that’s a frightening thought, especially at my age. Yes, I can stay at home, maintain a safe distance, and wear a mask. But even if I follow those protocols there will always be the question: Is that all I can and should be doing to minimize my vulnerability? Statistically, more than 90% of the elderly, who succumb to the disease, have at least one of the following underlying health issues: high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and/or lung disease. Thankfully, I don’t have any of these.

So, what can we do?

I know people who regularly get the seasonal flu. In fact, I used to get it a couple of times a year. In 1976 I became a vegetarian and gave up all meat. Every year I would inevitably come down with the flu, with all of the following symptoms: sore throat, cough, chest and head congestion, and body aches. My brother, Arthur, who had been eating whole plant based foods, at that time, believed that maybe it was the dairy that was behind my annual problem. Although it was extremely difficult for me to surrender my craving for cheese, eventually I accepted the challenge and gave up all dairy…and fish. The result: I haven’t had the flu during these past 11 years. In fact, the last time I remember having a fever was approximately 20 years ago, when I came down with dengue fever, caused by a specific mosquito. This is not only my story. My wife Delia has had the same experience. No seasonal flu since we adopted a whole food plant based diet.

My take:

Lifestyle choices, especially with regards to the inclusion of more whole plant based foods, will not only provide us with the best chance to avoid the serious consequences of covid-19, but also the opportunity to eliminate the seasonal flu from our lives…forever. This could be especially significant if the “perfect storm” becomes a reality.

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