Guest Column: Avoiding the Flu During a Pandemic

Dr. Ghada Harsouni, MD is the Medical Director for the Hamtramck Public Schools based Health Center. Her work with the Children’s Hospital of Michigan focuses on physical, social and emotional health of children from birth to young adulthood. 

When we typically enter the cooler, winter months, we prepare to bundle up and tackle cold and flu season. The unfortunate reality is that we’re all much more susceptible to getting sick during the winter – and this year we’re also facing the COVID-19 virus.

2020 has been a long year filled with much uncertainty, and I know that everyone wishes that we were able to go back to normal. Unfortunately, our vigilance regarding COVID-19 must continue for the near future as we work to avoid an ongoing surge similar what we experienced earlier this year.

One of the most important things that we can do to combat both the flu and COVID-19 is to get a flu vaccine. While a flu vaccine will not protect against COVID-19, it reduces your risk of flu illness and hospitalization, which will free up valuable healthcare resources needed to combat COVID-19. Please visit to learn more about resources available and flu vaccine locations.

Flu vaccines are available to Hamtramck Public School students at the Hamtramck School Based Health Center located at Hamtramck High School. Additionally, the Hamtramck Community Center will be hosting a two-day flu clinic that is free and open to all—a great opportunity to ensure that your family is protected this winter. The clinic will take place on November 30 and December 2, from 12 – 4 p.m. each day. For more information, please call (313)-891-9473.

Good hygiene will also make a significant impact in our battle against both the flu and COVID-19. Tenet Health offers us the following hygiene best practices.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid shaking hands and even fist bumps. Just a nod works fine during this period of time.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe. Don’t forget overlooked surfaces such as keyboards, light switches, faucets, door handles and remotes!
  • Disinfect your cell phone, and avoid leaving it on uncovered surfaces, especially in public.
  • Wear your mask and maintain 6 feet distance.
  • Stay home if you’re feeling sick

If you or a member of your family does start feeling ill, keep a close eye on your symptoms. In previous years if we had a runny nose or sore throat, it was easy to chalk it up to the common cold or flu. Many of us would take over the counter medications and continue on with our normal lives. However, it’s not safe to do that anymore as COVID-19 can present similar symptoms. Ultimately, you must get tested to know which infection you have. Call your doctor or local health clinic to see if you should make an appointment to get tested. The chart below goes into detail about some of the key differences between the flu and COVID-19.

I want to remind parents and families to stay in tune with the health of their students. As we gear up for cold and flu season and continued COVID-19 spread, the risks of illness are increasing. The best way to avoid contracting either virus is to avoid contact and exposure to positive persons. We can do this by staying home as much as possible, avoiding crowded indoor areas, large gatherings and practicing social distancing when in public.

This is a critical time for our community as we work to combat COVID-19 and return to our normal activities. In order to see our students back in school, our families gathering together and our city back to full operation, we must remain diligent in our efforts.