Cooler weather, more indoor activities and the start of the flu season are fast approaching in New Jersey.

Health officials are voicing concern about a possible “Twindemic” scenario, and they’re urging all Garden State residents to get a flu shot soon.

State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said with flu season and COVID-19 colliding this year, “the CDC has warned us that this may be the most difficult fall and winter flu season that we have ever experienced.”

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, she said that "getting a flu vaccine this fall will be more important than ever.”

“Influenza and COVID-19 share many symptoms," she added. "Preventing influenza means fewer people will seek medical care and testing for possible COVID-19 or influenza.”

She stressed a flu shot won’t protect you from COVID but “the vaccine can reduce flu illnesses and hospitalizations and this can also help to conserve potentially scarce healthcare resources during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

She said the CDC recommends everyone six months old and older get a flu vaccine every year.

“The best time to get vaccinated is early fall,” said Persichilli. “Getting vaccinated later, however, can still be beneficial.”

Dr. Ed Lifshitz, the director of communicable disease services for the state Department of Health, said getting a flu shot this year is important. He recommends getting a flu shot starting in mid September.

Influenza is not nearly as deadly as COVID-19 but last season two children died from the flu. Long-term care facilities counted 120 flu outbreaks, 24,000 people visited the emergency room with the flu and 117 patients ended up on ventilators.

Since 2008, flu vaccinations have been required for children attending daycare and preschool. This year, for the first time, employees in all licensed nursing homes, home health agencies, acute care and specialty hospitals, long-term care facilities, rehab hospitals and psychiatric hospitals are also required to get a flu shot before the end of 2020.

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