SUMTER, S.C. — Across the state, health officials are gathering supplies, hoping to build a defense against a flu threat magnified by COVID-19.
"We've ordered a ton of flu shots and we're going through them like crazy," Dr. Clay Lowder of Colonial Healthcare said. "We're securing COVID-19 rapid tests for our community now, where we can tell in as little as 30 minutes whether you have coronavirus or not. Same with the flu; we have excellent flu testing."
Testing is an essential step to guard against the unknown, according to Lowder, who said one of the biggest concerns is the uncertainty.
"If you get flu, it tends to run your immune system down. Then you can get pneumonia and other infections that can lead to death. So, the thinking is, what if you get flu and get run down and then get corona? What is that going to look like as we go?," Lowder said.
There's also the challenge of identifying which infection you have when many of the symptoms are similar.
Sometimes even common cold symptoms like runny nose and sore throat could be signs of coronavirus, according to Lowder. But loss of taste and smell, although not present in every case, seem to be the biggest differentiators and are usually an indication of COVID-19.
Health officials are working to distribute combination tests that screen for the flu, coronavirus and other illnesses in one swab or sample, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
A positive, according to Lowder.
"That's really gonna help us over the winter to decide what virus you have and how best to treat you and your family," Lowder said.
For now, he's hoping to see everyone who can get the flu shot to do so.
The CDC says they've been working with vaccine manufacturers to have extra flu vaccinations available this season and recommend people get vaccinated this month.
To find a vaccination location near you visit Vaccinefinder.org.