Seasoned travel nurses know that every year the flu season brings a rise in patient contacts and hospitalizations thereby offering even more travel nursing opportunities. However, this flu season may be unlike any we’ve had because of the strain the pandemic is already causing on nursing shortages nationwide.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the previous flu season (2019-2020) had an estimated 24,000-62,000 deaths. Furthermore, there were over 18,000,000 medical visits, and over 410,000 hospitalizations due to the flu. Imagine the impact of those numbers on top of current COVID-19 levels. As of October 8, 2020, we have over 7 million cases, 314,900 in the last seven days, and over 200,000 deaths due to COVID-19 (data provided by the CDC’s COVID-19 tracker).

The COVID-19 numbers continue to rise and potential complications of receiving patients who have both COVID and the flu, or who contract the viruses at separate times but need hospitalization for each virus, are worrisome for an already burdened healthcare system. These concerns have prompted a larger than usual push for the flu vaccine as healthcare experts and administrators worry that a severe flu season will steal valuable resources both medical and staff from treating the novel coronavirus.

Flu Vaccine Production is Up

Indeed, for the 2020-2021 flu season, more emphasis than perhaps ever is being placed on the importance of the flu vaccine. GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca, two major influenza vaccine manufacturers, reported increased production for the vaccine. The CDC further estimates the sum of flu vaccine doses available for the season will be 194-198 million.

Distribution of vaccination shipments has already started (August) and as of the last week in September, 105.5M doses have been distributed.

COVID-19 Biosecurity Measures May Restrict the Spread of the Flu

As the northern hemisphere has battled COVID-19 during our warmer months, the southern hemisphere has been battling it during their cooler seasons. Interestingly, some sources have reported southern hemisphere countries with fewer flu cases than is typical for the flu season.

Some experts and health officials say that is in large part due to personal contact restrictions including social distancing, quarantining, travel restrictions, increased handwashing, and the use of masks. It could also be attributed to medical centers and clinics closing down for all medical services except for emergencies. School closures invariably had an impact as well.

These factors might not aid us in this year’s flu season; because our flu season is occurring after our businesses, schools, and lives are opening back up. Wearing masks, washing hands, and social distancing continue to be of utmost importance but unfortunately, masks are a controversial topic in the U.S.

Book Your Flu Season Travel Nurse Contract Right Away

We know so little about how the flu virus will interact with COVID-19 because we don’t have a lot of data from the southern hemisphere. Situations are apt to change and change quickly to respond to the needs of communities. It’s important for travel nurses to arrange their contracts for flu season as soon as possible to snag the first spots available.

Nurses with experience in the Intensive Care, Critical Care, Emergency Departments, Surgical Units, and Telemetry are among those in highest demand as hospitals and medical facilities prepare for the unknown this fall. Travel nursing jobs are available now in a wide variety of medical settings, cities, and rural areas. The longer you wait to arrange it, the fewer choices you will have.

Frequently Asked Questions About COVID-19 and the Flu

Is the coronavirus disease more severe than the flu?

Yes. COVID-19 causes more hospitalizations and more severe illnesses among those infected than the flu. The severity of COVID-19 is also impacted by access to proper healthcare. Accordingly, some people have immunity to influenza, and vaccines are readily available to protect, while there is to date, no vaccine available for protection against COVID-19.

What is the difference between the coronavirus and the influenza virus?

Both COVID-19 and Influenza are viruses that affect the respiratory system. COVID-19 is believed to spread more readily than the flu. However, persons who have COVID-19 may be asymptomatic for longer as well as contagious for longer as well. Some of their symptoms are similar and therefore testing will be a vital tool to determine the proper diagnosis.

The CDC has anticipated the importance of testing for both viruses this flu season and responded accordingly.

“CDC has developed a test that will check for A and B type seasonal flu viruses and SARS CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This test will be used by U.S. public health laboratories. Testing for these viruses at the same time will give public health officials important information about how flu and COVID-19 are spreading and what prevention steps should be taken. The test will also help public health laboratories save time and testing materials, and to possibly return test results faster. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given CDC an Emergency Use Authorization for this new test. Initial test kits were sent to public health laboratories in early August 2020. CDC will continue to manufacture and distribute these kits.”

What is the mortality rate of the coronavirus disease versus the influenza virus?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the COVID-19 mortality rate is higher than that of the flu virus. Data for COVID-19 is constantly changing, but what is currently believed is that COVID-19 has a mortality rate of 3-4%. The mortality rate for influenza, globally, is below .1%.

Elite Specialty Staffing Travel Nurse Jobs Will Take You Wherever You Want to Go

Protect yourself this flu season by getting vaccinated and following your facility’s guidelines on biosecurity. Take a look at available travel nursing jobs with Elite Specialty Staffing now. We have high-paying travel nursing contracts available nationwide. Whether you want rural or urban, we have a variety of healthcare settings just waiting for a travel nurse to step in. Apply today!

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Written by Miranda Booher, RN

As a twelve-year Registered Nurse with a healthy background in travel nursing and healthcare marketing, Miranda brings an interesting combination of stellar copywriting skills and first-hand nursing experience to the table. Miranda understands the industry and has a impeccable ability to write about it. And speaking of travel - Miranda currently lives in Uruguay, though she maintains an active Registered Nurse license in the state of Ohio and stays current on the latest healthcare news through her writing. When she is not creating killer copy, or serving others through her work as a nurse, you can find her hanging out on the beach with her loyal husband, three crazy kids, and their beautiful German Shepherd-Husky dog.

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