Similarities and Differences Between COVID-19 and the Flu

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Fall is approaching which means flu season is also. During the COVID-19 pandemic, you may have heard that the coronavirus is similar to the flu.2 Both are contagious respiratory illnesses, but there are some key differences between the two.3

 Similarities Between COVID-19 and the Flu

For both COVID-19 and the flu, one or more days can pass between when a person becomes infected and when he or she starts to experience symptoms.1 Both of these viruses can spread in similar ways. They spread through respiratory droplets or aerosols released while talking, sneezing, or walking.2 COVID-19 and the flu have many signs and symptoms including:2

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain or body ached

The signs and symptoms for these viruses can range from no symptoms to mild or severe.2 COVID-19 and the flu can lead to serious complications such as pneumonia, organ failure, heart attacks or stroke.2

Differences Between COVID-19 and the Flu

A few key differences between COVID-19 and the flu are:

  • While with COVID-19, you may experience symptoms two to 14 days after exposure, flu symptoms normally appear about one to four days after exposure.2
  • Severe illnesses are more frequent with COVID-19.2
  • A person with COVID-19 is contagious for a longer time than if they had the flu.1
  • COVID-19 is generally more contagious than flu viruses.1
  • COVID-19 illnesses resulting in hospitalization and death can occur even in healthy people.1

How may COVID-19 affect this year’s flu season?

During this year’s flu season, it is possible that the viruses that cause COVID-19 and the flu may spread at the same time.2 There are a few steps that you can take to reduce your risk of infection from both viruses:

  • Getting the flu and COVID-19 vaccine
  • Avoid close contact with anyone outside your household2
  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds2
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze2
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth2

How can Tria help?

If Tria Health is offered through your benefits plan, you have the option of receiving a one-on-one, private consultation with one of Tria Health’s pharmacists over the phone. During your consultation, your pharmacist will review all your current medications, including vitamins and supplements. Many of our patients are at a higher risk for serious illness with COVID-19 and the flu. Our pharmacists have been actively educating engaged patients on risk factors and the importance of prevention techniques. We are committed to assisting members with any questions they may have about their medications, risk factors or ways they can mitigate their risk. 

Questions?

Contact the Tria Health Help Desk at 1.888.799.8742

Sources:

  1. Similarities and Differences between Flu and COVID-19​ | CDC
  2. COVID-19 (coronavirus) vs. flu: Similarities and differences – Mayo Clinic
  3. Similarities and Differences Between Flu and COVID-19 | University of Utah Health

Telehealth

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Telehealth is becoming increasingly more popular. With the pandemic, telehealth has allowed people to get the health care they need while also allowing for safe social distancing. Are you taking advantage of what telehealth has to offer?

What is Telehealth?

Telehealth is the use of electronic communication technologies to access health care services remotely to manage your health. The goals of telehealth are to make health care more accessible, provide access to medical specialists and improve care coordination between members of health care teams and patients.2 With telehealth you can:

  • Talk to your doctor live over the phone or video chat.1
  • Use remote patient monitoring.1
  • Send or receive secure messages to communicate with your doctor.1
  • Use an online portal to schedule appointments, request refills or email your doctor.2

Benefits of Telehealth

  • Reduced exposure to pathogens: Telehealth keeps patients at home and away from COVID-19, the flu and other viruses.4
  • Convenience: You will not need to commute, take time off from work or get childcare for a health care appointment.3
  • Lower cost: Telehealth appointments typically cost less than in-person visits do.4
  • Medical access: People in rural and undeserved urban areas have a difficult time accessing medical care. This provides a way for people to see and meet their healthcare professional quickly.4
  • Easy access to specialists: Using telehealth tools can expand the range of access to specialists who live further away.1

Common Questions About Telehealth5

  1. Does telehealth protect my privacy? Absolutely. Healthcare providers are HIPAA compliant. When you communicate using electronic communication technologies, your medical information is held to the same standards as a regular in-person visit.
  2. Is telehealth hard to use? If you are not tech savvy, do not worry! Your healthcare provider will be able to walk you through the process. If you would rather talk on the phone than use video conferencing, your healthcare provider should be able to accommodate you in most cases.
  3. Can I get a prescription during a telehealth visit? If your health issue does not require further testing, your healthcare provider can provide you with an electronic prescription.
  4. Are telehealth visits as effective as in-person ones? Yes, if your health concern does not require bloodwork, x-ray or lab tests, your healthcare provider can still physically examine you with video technology in most cases.

Tria Health

At Tria Health, our pharmacists provide telehealth services when outreaching to high-risk patients, improving patient health and helping them find ways to reduce costs. Tria Health is a no cost benefit available through select members’ health plans. Tria Health’s Pharmacy Advocate Program offers one-on-one, private telephonic consultations with a Tria Health Pharmacist. During your consultation, your pharmacist will review all your current medications, including vitamins and supplements. Tria Health will assist you in identifying any possible drug interactions or savings opportunities! Your pharmacist will work with you and your doctor(s) to ensure the intended outcomes from your medications are being received.

Questions?

Contact the Tria Health Help Desk at 1.888.799.8742

Sources:

  1. What is telehealth? | Telehealth.HHS.gov
  2. Telehealth: Technology meets health care – Mayo Clinic
  3. Telemedicine benefits, disadvantages, and uses (medicalnewstoday.com)
  4. Telemedicine Benefits: 17 Advantages for Patients and Doctors (healthline.com)
  5. Telehealth: What Is It, How Does It Work, and How Much Does It Cost? – GoodRx

Obesity Worsens Outcomes from COVID-19

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Nearly 40% of people who make a New Year’s resolution say they plan to lose weight.1 However, the pandemic is making it more difficult for Americans to keep weight off. Obesity rates are on the rise in the United States. This is concerning as people with obesity have died of COVID-19 at excessive rates.1

Obesity

A body mass index (BMI) between 30 kg/m2 and <40 kg/m2 or severe obesity (BMI of 40 kg/m2 or above), increases your risk of severe illness from COVID-19.6 Obesity is now considered a chronic condition and puts people at risk for other chronic conditions.5 According to the CDC, medical costs for obese people are $1,429 higher than those that are not obese.3

Vaccinations and Obesity

Vaccines that protect against seasonal flu, hepatitis B and rabis are less effective in obese populations compared to leaner ones.1 Researchers have found that having obesity increases one’s likelihood of hospitalization for COVID-19 by 113%.2

Facts About Obesity and COVID-19:

  1. Having obesity may triple the risk of hospitalizations due to a COVID-19 infection.7
  2. Obesity is linked to impaired immune function.7
  3. The risk of death from COVID-19 increases as BMI increases.7
  4. Obesity decreases lung capacity which can make ventilation more difficult.7

Actions to Take to Combat Obesity

  1. There are prescription medications for obesity. Make sure that you have at least a 30-day supply of your medications and are taking them as prescribed.4
  2. Eating a healthy diet can help support immune function. A healthy diet prevents and aids in managing other chronic conditions like diabetes, which also increases your risk of severe illness from COVID-19.7
  3. Physical activity also supports immune function and helps with weight loss. Being active can help decrease a person’s chance of having severe illness from COVID-19.7
  4. Getting enough sleep is crucial as insufficient sleep has been linked to other chronic conditions and obesity.7
  5. Coping with stress over time can lower BMI.7

Tria Health Can Help

Tria Health offers a weight management service called Choose To Lose. If this structured weight loss program is included through your benefits plan, you can receive help from a combination of registered dietitians, health coaches and pharmacists, along the best-in-class nutrition tracker app ‘LoseIt!’ and a Bluetooth scale. This program is great at helping tackle the risks associated with obesity.

Tria Health is a no cost benefit available through select members’ health plans. Tria Health’s Pharmacy Advocate Program offers one-on-one, private consultations with a Tria Health Pharmacist. During your consultation, your pharmacist will review all your current medications, including vitamins and supplements. Tria Health will assist you in identifying any possible drug interactions or savings opportunities! Your pharmacist will work with you and your doctor(s) to ensure the intended outcomes from your medications are being received.

Questions?

Contact the Tria Health Help Desk at 1.888.799.8742

Sources:

  1. The Health 202: Obese Americans suffer disproportionately from the coronavirus – The Washington Post
  2. Why COVID-19 is more deadly in people with obesity—even if they’re young | Science | AAAS (sciencemag.org)
  3. Adult Obesity Facts | Overweight & Obesity | CDC
  4. Certain Medical Conditions and Risk for Severe COVID-19 Illness | CDC
  5. Obesity Is Now Considered a Disease – Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic
  6. Certain Medical Conditions and Risk for Severe COVID-19 Illness | CDC
  7. Obesity, Race/Ethnicity, and COVID-19 | Overweight & Obesity | CDC

Safety of Vaccinations

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The CDC considers vaccinations to be one of the top 10 public health achievements of the 20th century.1-3 Thanks to vaccines, the incidence, morbidity, mortality, and prevalence of vaccine-preventable diseases have considerably diminished since vaccinations became available. However, now that the COVID-19 vaccine has finally arrived, consumers are wondering whether it will be safe.

If you are having COVID-19 vaccine hesitation, know that the FDA has considered the vaccine adequately safe and effective. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccine have both received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA for public use. To further ease any vaccine fears, below is information about vaccine safety, facts and myths about the COVID-19 vaccine and the benefit vaccines have on your health.

How the COVID-19 Vaccine works

This new vaccine works unlike any previous vaccinations, using a molecule called messenger RNA (mRNA) in a mechanism researchers have been developing for over 30 years. When infected with COVID-19, the virus uses a “spike protein” to attach and enter human cells. The vaccine uses mRNA to provide the body with a blueprint which stimulates human cells to make their own version of a spike protein (not the real virus) that triggers the immune system to make antibodies against it. Once the body makes antibodies against this synthetic spike protein, the body will be able to recognize the actual COVID-19 viral protein and quickly fight the real virus before it attaches to human cells and causes harm.

Herd Immunity

Herd immunity is when a large portion of a community (herd) becomes immune to a disease, lessening the spread of the disease from person to person. Current research shows that the development of natural immunity in people who have previously built-up antibodies from COVID-19 is not going to be enough to cause herd immunity within the community. Not everyone with a previous COVID-19 diagnosis is developing natural antibodies which protect against the spread of the virus, and those who do develop antibodies may begin to lose them over time. Therefore, routine vaccination against COVID-19 is essential to prevent living through another pandemic a year full of face masks and social distancing. Vaccines will first be prioritized to high-risk populations, including healthcare personnel and long-term care facilities. Recommendations suggest 2 shots into the muscle of the upper arm 3-4 weeks apart depending on the manufacturer (Pfizer vs Moderna). Per the FDA, available data currently shows receiving 2 doses of the vaccine is between 90.3% to 97.6% effective at preventing COVID-19.

The benefits vaccines have on health

There are two main benefits for vaccination:

  1. You can help lower your chance of getting certain disease
    • Hepatitis B vaccine lowers your risk of liver cancer.
    • HPV vaccine lowers your risk of cervical cancer.
    • Flu vaccine lowers your risk of flu-related heart attacks or other flu-related complications from existing health conditions like diabetes and chronic lung disease.
  2. You can lower your chance of spreading disease.
    • Some people in your family or community may not be able to get certain vaccines due to their age or health condition. They rely on you to help prevent the spread of disease.
    • Infants, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems (like those undergoing cancer treatment) are especially vulnerable to infectious disease.10

Facts surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine

There is now an authorized and recommended COVID-19 vaccination in the Unites States and many people are concerned about its safety. It is crucial to make sure you are getting accurate information about the vaccination. Below are FACTS from the CDC about COVID-19 vaccines:

  1. The COVID-19 vaccine will not give you COVID-19. It is not a traditional vaccination, currently none of the COVID-19 vaccines use the live virus that causes COVID-19. This vaccination helps our bodies fight the virus without us having to get the illness.
  2. Even if you have gotten sick with COVID-19, you may benefit from getting vaccinated. Re-infection is possible; therefore, it is advised to get a vaccination even if you have had COVID-19 before.
  3. Right now, there is a limited supply of the vaccine in the United States, but more will come in the following weeks and months.
  4. Getting a vaccine that uses mRNA will not change your DNA.  The COVID-19 vaccine contains mRNA or messenger ribonucleic acid which is best described as instructions for how to make a protein. It is important to know that that mRNA is not able to alter a person’s DNA. The mRNA from the COVID-19 vaccine will not enter the nucleus of the cell, where our DNA is found.

Myths surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine

There is a lot of misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccination. Below are MYTHS about the vaccine:

  1. Other immunizations such as the flu shot will prevent COVID-19.
  2. Infertility or other serious medical problems will occur if you get the COVID-19 vaccine.
  3. You will get a positive COVID-19 viral test if you get the COVID-19 vaccine.
  4. There will not be enough vaccinations for everyone.

If you are struggling to find credible vaccine information, use this link for recommendations of trustworthy sources: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/evalwebs.htm.

Stats on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines

Vaccines are both safe and effective. They go through years of testing before the FDA licenses them for use. Both the CDC and FDA continue to track the safety of all licensed vaccines.6 The CDC tracks the safety of vaccinations through The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). VAERS was created in 1990 to detect any potential safety issues with U.S. vaccines. If anyone experiences problems after an immunization, they can submit a report to VAERS. This monitoring system makes it possible to spot any unusual side effects from vaccinations as well as identify any risks for health issues related to vaccinations. If you are ever concerned about the safety of immunizations, you can have peace of mind knowing they are constantly being monitored.9

Below are the facts and figures that show the safety and effectiveness of vaccinations:

  • According to the World Health Organization, immunizations prevent 2-3 million deaths every year from vaccine-preventable diseases.5
  • Most childhood vaccinations are 90% to 99% effective in preventing diseases.7
  • The flu vaccination can reduce the risk of flu illness by between 40% and 60%.6
  • The CDC estimates that immunizations will prevent more than 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths among children born in the last 20 years.8
  • About 85-90% of vaccine side effects are mild and not serious.9

How Pharmacists can Help

Pharmacists are also in a unique position to identify those patients who are in target groups for certain vaccinations. They may also be able to ease the fears of many patients by providing them with facts such as clinical data and by dispelling common misconceptions and myths about vaccinations; they can also stress the significant risks associated with not being vaccinated.4

Tria Health was founded on the belief that pharmacists play a vital role in the management of high-risk patients. With Tria, you have the option of receiving a one-on-one private consultation with one of Tria Health’s pharmacists over the phone. During your consultation, your pharmacist will review all your current medications, including vitamins, supplements and lifestyle habits. Your pharmacist will be able to answer any questions you may have regarding vaccinations.

Sources:

  1. Oldfield BJ, Stewart RW. Common misconceptions, advancements, and updates in pediatric vaccine administration. South Med J. 2016;109(1):38-41. doi: 10.14423/SMJ.0000000000000399.
  2. Ventola CL. Immunization in the United States: recommendations, barriers, and measures to improve compliance: part 2: adult vaccinations. P T. 2016;41(8):492-506.
  3. Temoka E. Becoming a vaccine champion: evidence-based interventions to address the challenges of vaccination. S D Med. 2013;(theme issue): 68-72.
  4. https://www.pharmacytimes.com/publications/issue/2019/january2019/adult-vaccination-rates-are-rising-but-fall-short
  5. https://www.who.int/news-room/facts-in-pictures/detail/immunization
  6. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/vaccines-work/vaccineeffect.htm#:~:text=Recent%20studies%20show%20flu%20vaccine,to%20the%20flu%20vaccine%20viruses.
  7. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/immunizations/Pages/Vaccine-Safety-The-Facts.aspx
  8. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2014/p0424-immunization-program.html
  9. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/ensuringsafety/monitoring/vaers/index.html
  10. Reasons for Adults to be Vaccinated | CDC
  11. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/vaccine-benefits/facts.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fvaccines%2Fabout-vaccines%2Fvaccine-myths.html
  12. https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/covid-19/covid-19-vaccination-program/19-vaccine-myths-vs-facts
  13. Herd immunity and COVID-19 (coronavirus): What you need to know – Mayo Clinic

The Importance of Preventative Care in a Crisis

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Preventative care is the care you receive to prevent illnesses or diseases. With the pandemic, the number of outpatient clinic visits have decreased. This is alarming as preventative care services have never been more important. Find out why preventative care is so crucial below.

Why You Should Put Preventative Care First

If left untreated, small health problems can turn into much larger health issues. When you discover a disease early, you have more treatment options. Unfortunately, we know that people with chronic health conditions are at greater risk of severe complications if they contract COVID-19. Therefore, it is so important to know your health status. Preventative care allows you to take extra precautions for your health so you can keep your chronic conditions managed.

Preventative Care Services Include:

  • Wellness Visits and Standard Immunizations
  • Screenings for blood pressure, cancer, cholesterol, depression, obesity, and diabetes
  • Pediatric screenings for hearing, vision, development disorders, depression, and obesity

Stress and Preventative Care

Stress is at an all-time high due to the coronavirus pandemic. Elevated stress is connected to several health illnesses as it can increase a person’s risk for heart disease, weaken the immune system, cause migraines, and increase blood pressure. Your wellbeing is important, take care of your mental and physical health by getting preventative care to make certain that your immune system is prepared for whatever comes your way.

Safety Measures for Preventive Care Visits

You do not have to feel worried about physically returning to the doctor’s office as outpatient clinics are taking a lot of precautions to ensure patient safety during visits. Some of these measures include:

  • Enforcing masks
  • Temperature checks
  • Social distancing
  • Separate sick patients with symptoms

To get more information on how clinics are preparing for visits view: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/clinic-preparedness.html

Benefits of Preventative Care

There are several different why people should practice preventative health care:

  1. Improves your health in the long-term- Your healthcare professional can identify health concerns before they become a problem. For example, during regular wellness checkups blood pressure if tested. If your health professional notices that it is increasing, they can provide you with tips on how to lower it before it becomes severe.
  2. Increases lifespan
  3. Avoid high medical expenses- Preventative care is a lot less expensive than only going to seek help when a problem arises.

Alarming Facts

Preventative care is necessary for the quality of your health. It allows you to catch/prevent diseases before they become problematic. Take extra precautions during this pandemic by staying up to date with all your preventative care visits.

Do you have any questions regarding preventative care?

Tria Health provides one-on-one confidential counseling with a pharmacist for any of your medication related questions. If Tria Health is currently a part of your healthcare plan, call the Tria Health Help desk today for any of your questions.

Tria Help Desk: 1.888.799.8742

Sources:

  1. https://privateindustrycouncil.com/importance-of-preventative-care/
  2. https://www.sbmabenefits.com/2020/10/28/why-is-preventative-care-so-important-during-covid/
  3. https://www.prevention.com/health/a33770806/preventative-care-covid-19/
  4. https://www.lifelinescreening.com/health-education/importance-of-preventive-care
  5. https://nooranimedicalcenter.com/understanding-the-importance-of-preventive-health-care/