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Seattle infectious disease expert clears up flu myths

Chris Cashman spoke with Dr. Chris Baliga, the Head for Infectious Disease at Virginia Mason Medical Center, for answers to frequently asked questions about the flu.

SEATTLE — School is back in session and soon, flu season will arrive soon enough. With COVID-19 already altering our daily lives, it’s tough to know exactly what to expect. 

Dr. Chris Baliga, Head for Infectious Disease at Virginia Mason Medical Center, answered common questions, myths and misinformation.

I don’t need a flu shot because I’m wearing a mask. True or false?

False. "No, you still need a flu shot. The mask is protection. It does help reduce the risk of catching COVID by up to 80%, it does reduce the risk of catching the flu. But up to 80% is not up to 100%, you could still get it."

By getting a flu shot, you’re increasing your risk of catching COVID. True or false?

False. “There’s no evidence that getting a flu shot can decrease or increase the risk of catching COVID. It will reduce your risk of catching the flu, which is what it’s there for.”

Wearing the mask is not going to protect your immune system

True. “The mask has nothing to do with your immune system.”

Why is it so hard for people to accept? We all wear seat belts for our protection, even though we’re probably not going to crash.

"When seatbelts became mandatory, there was a lot of pushback. People didn’t do it for a long time. I think it’s human nature to want to keep living your life how you’ve lived it for all this time."

Should I get a flu shot?

"You should always get a flu shot. The flu shot is helpful. It protects you from getting influenza. And if you get it, you can hopefully get a milder illness." Getting a flu shot also helps protect other people, he said.

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