How is the Flu Season Different During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

The flu season peaks annually from December to February. This year has seen a marked decrease in seasonal infections even as the COVID-19 pandemic surges on. Influenza and COVID-19 are both severe and contagious respiratory illnesses, which affect your lungs and breathing. Even though they both present very similar symptoms, they are caused by two entirely different viruses. 

A Decrease in Influenza Rates

The COVID-19 virus has taken the lives of approximately 1.5 million people and affected 67 million people worldwide. Tackling the COVID-19 virus and the influenza virus simultaneously was proving to be a topic of great discourse and marked fear. Usually, when December arrives, so does the annual flu season. However, this year there has been a marked decrease in the flu rates, dropping to a historically low percentage in the US. 

Health care workers and other specialists say that this decline in flu rates could be attributed to the decline of people coming to clinics to get themselves tested. Other reasons could be the stringent rules being in effects such as several lockdowns, social distancing and wearing masks in public spaces. The fear of the COVID-19 virus, being far deadlier than the influenza virus made people take extra precautions and sanitary measures leading to the decline of the flu. It is important, however, to know the similarities and differences between COVID-19 and the flu, to further protect yourself. 

Similarities Between COVID-19 and the Flu

Symptoms:

  • Both of the illnesses can cause symptoms such as body ache, headache, sore throat, coughs and sometimes even vomiting and diarrhoea, especially in children. 
  • They can be mild, severe and even fatal if the diseases progress further without medical intervention.
  •  A person can be an asymptomatic carrier, meaning they show none of the above symptoms but can still transmit the disease unknowingly. 

The Spread of the Virus:

  • They spread similarly with droplets or smaller particles of the virus transmitting from a sick person to other people nearby. Some of the particles may even linger in the air, and another person may inhale them and become infected.
  • It can also spread by people touching infected surfaces and then touching their eyes, nose and mouth. 
  • It is possible to spread the virus at least one day before experiencing symptoms.

Treatment and Prevention:

  • The diseases are not treatable with antibiotics, which only work on bacterial infections.
  • Since there is no immediate cure, they are both treated by addressing symptoms, such as reducing fever, headaches and body aches. Severe cases may require hospitalization and the person may need a ventilator.
  • Antiviral medications are prescribed which may shorten the duration of both illnesses.
  • The diseases can be prevented by wearing a mask, frequent and thorough hand washing, covering of the mouth while coughing, staying home when sick and limiting contact with people who are infected, and social distancing.

Vaccines:

  • The FDA has approved a couple of Flu shots to be taken by individuals aged 6 months and older. It is advised to take these shots as it helps strengthen your body’s immune system to be able to fight the virus. 
  • A COVID-19 vaccine which was in the works has also been recently made available for those wishing to take it. Our earlier blog post talks about the mRNA vaccine in more detail.

Differences Between COVID-19 and the Flu

Cause:

  • COVID-19  is caused by the novel coronavirus also known as SARS-CoV-2 whereas Influenza is caused by the influenza virus, which could be of a variety of types.  

The Spread of the Virus:

  • While both of the viruses spread similarly, COVID-19 has proven to spread more among certain age groups and populations as compared to the flu.
  • COVID-19: A person can spread the virus for about 2 days before experiencing symptoms and remaining contagious for 10 days post their first symptoms.
  • Influenza: Most people with the flu are contagious for about 1 day before they start showing any symptoms. 

Treatment and Prevention:

COVID-19: Antiviral drugs are being administered to most patients, with other treatments being tested out to see if they can improve the symptoms and shorten the duration of the illness. 

Influenza: Oral antiviral drugs approved by the FDA are administered to patients. 

If you get sick with the flu or COVID-19, it is best to get checked at the earliest, especially for certain people with high-risk complications such as young children, people 65 and older, pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions. Get tested for COVID-19 at Buckhead Medicine at the earliest. You can even schedule routine check-ups at our medical practice, book online appointments or avail our concierge services. We at Buckhead Medicine do our best to ensure our patients’ safety. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more updates. 

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FAQ

What services are provided as a part of my annual fee?
  • Same-day or next business day appointments
  • Direct access to Dr. Espinosa via his personal cell phone after hours, weekends, and holidays
  • Minimal office wait times
  • Longer, more comprehensive appointments
  • House Calls (requires additional trip fee)
  • A strong focus on preventive medicine, long-term health and wellness
  • A personal professional relationship with your physician
What is the mission of Buckhead Medicine?

We strive to provide the highest quality medical care, emphasizing a comprehensive approach to prevention and disease management. We want patients to be completely satisfied with every aspect of their care.

Where is your office and are you on the medical staff of a local hospital?

Yes, Dr. Espinosa’s office is in Buckhead, a suburb of Atlanta. He is on the medical staff of Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia and Northside Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. If you require hospitalization, Dr. Espinosa will coordinate your patient care by working with the hospital based physicians. He will also make periodic hospital visits during your hospitalization.

Who will cover for you when you are not available?

On infrequent occasions when Dr. Espinosa is out of town or otherwise unavailable, he will have another qualified physician cover for him. Even while out of town, Dr. Espinosa will generally be available by phone to his patients and to his covering physicians. For practical reasons, we reserve the right to designate another qualified physician to perform any and all services should the need arise.

Do you accept insurance?

Commercial Insurance and Medicare:
Buckhead Medicine is an In-Network provider for Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO, Aetna, Coventry, Humana, Cigna, Tricare and United Healthcare. Our practice fully participates in the Medicare program. Buckhead Medicine accepts all other insurance as an Out-of-Network provider. We, however, do not participate in the Medicaid program. Regardless of your plan, we will bill your insurance for all covered services. It is our intention that no insurance-covered medical services are included in your annual fee.

HMO and Medicare HMO:
We do not participate in HMO programs. As such, HMO patients will not be able to join the practice until they transition to either a PPO or traditional Medicare plan.

Do I still need insurance if I enroll with you?

Yes. Personalized medical practices do not take the place of general health insurance coverage. Buckhead Medicine is a primary care medical practice, not a health insurance program. You are advised to continue your PPO, Medicare or other insurance program. If you are an uninsured individual and desire to enroll in the practice, we will provide you with a discounted fee schedule for office visits, tests and procedures.

What if I don't have health insurance?

For uninsured patients, Buckhead Medicine offers an uninsured patient plan. Although this plan is not insurance, it does cover for all clinic visits and any labs or tests that are performed in our office. In many cases this plan provides for significant cost savings to uninsured individuals. Please contact our office for additional details on this plan.

Will my insurance still be billed for my office visits?

Yes, we will bill your insurance company directly. The annual fee does not cover costs for regular exams or testing conducted inside or outside of the clinic. These costs are billed to your insurance provider in the same manner that traditional practices bill insurers.

Is there a co-payment?

If you have commercial insurance, we will collect the co-payment at the time of service. Medicare patients usually do not require a co-payment.

Do you bill Medicare for the annual fee?

No. The annual fee is not covered by Medicare. The fee only includes services that are not covered by Medicare and, as such, cannot be paid for or reimbursed by Medicare. We will bill Medicare for your sick visits and for any additional services performed at this practice that are covered by Medicare.

Will my commercial insurance reimburse my annual fee?

No, commercial insurance does not typically reimburse for the annual fee. However, some Flexible Spending Account and Health Savings Account plans may pay for all or part of the annual fee. In addition, some insurance plans allow the concierge fee to apply towards the annual deductible. Members are advised to consult their human resources representative at their place of employment.

Is the annual fee tax deductible?

In many cases the annual fee is a tax deductible healthcare expense. Patients are advised to consult with their tax consultant to clarify qualification in their particular circumstance.

Does the annual fee cover lab, x-ray, specialist fees and hospitalization?

Services such as labs, x-ray, specialty visits or hospitalizations are covered based on coverage determined by your insurance plan.

Are there age limits?

Dr. Espinosa is an Internal Medicine physician. His specialty is Adult medicine. Dr. Espinosa is trained to manage acute and chronic medical illnesses among adults. As such, the practice is limited to patients 17 years of age and older.

What if I have an emergency?

If you have a life threatening emergency, call 911 immediately. After you call 911, please call Dr. Espinosa. He will contact the hospital and notify the emergency room of your tentative arrival. In addition, Dr. Espinosa will provide the emergency room with pertinent medical history information

How far in advance do I need to book an appointment?

Dr. Espinosa is committed to providing his patients with easy access to care. All urgent visits will be accommodated either same day or next day, placing the greatest priority on the sickest patients. Annual physical exams will be booked 1 to 2 weeks in advance.

What do I do if I become ill while traveling or away on an extended vacation?

Call 911 if you have a life threatening emergency. Then call Dr. Espinosa. Call Dr. Espinosa first if the problem is minor. With the exception of a few controlled substances, most prescriptions can be ordered anywhere in the country. If necessary, it may be possible for Dr. Espinosa to find you a resource in your area. If you seek care at an emergency room or urgent care center out of our area, we request that you have the doctor seeing you call Dr. Espinosa for coordination. Dr. Espinosa will be readily available by phone for consultation with you and/or other health care personnel. If you should require hospitalization while away, at your request, Dr. Espinosa will establish phone communication with you and your attending physician(s) to ensure continuity of care.

Do you make house calls?

House calls will be available to Buckhead Medicine members, within a limited radius from the clinic. These will be done as deemed appropriate by Dr. Espinosa on a case-by-case basis. Home visits will be billed to your insurance provider similar to an office visit. A separate trip fee is required for house calls.

What if I need to see a specialist or a surgeon?

Of course, Buckhead Medicine patients are free to see any specialist they wish. We are available to help you decide what specialists to see and to coordinate such consultations. Patients may frequently request for “doctors in my area”, and we can accommodate this. We will ensure that the most appropriate resources are used, the earliest arrangements are made, and your applicable medical information is sent in advance of your specialist visit.

What about the cost of prescription medications?

The cost of prescription medications are the patient’s responsibility and in most cases should be covered by their insurance plans. We have expertise in assisting patients in purchasing medications in the most cost effective manner.

Will I be required to pay my annual fee even if I do not use your services?

Yes. Paying your annual fee allows you to be a member of the practice whether you are sick or well. We encourage our patients to utilize the amenities offered such as wellness consultations and emails for appropriate non-urgent health related questions, regardless of your state of health.

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