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'Hospitals could be really stressed.' Austin doctor says COVID-19 and flu season could overwhelm ERs

While Austin-area hospital capacity is doing better, one doctor says the combination of COVID-19 and flu season could be the "perfect storm."

AUSTIN, Texas — Austin Public Health reported that Austin-Travis County hospital capacity is doing better in the midst of COVID-19.

However, one doctor worried that the combination of COVID-19 and flu season could be the "perfect storm."

"If you look at health care in the midst of flu season, the ERs are very busy. The hospitals are often busy. Offices are busy," said Dr. Donald Murphey, a pediatric infectious disease physician at Dell Children's Medical Center. "You put the COVID outbreak on top of that, and then ERs could be really stressed and hospitals could be really stressed."

Murphey, who is also on the Texas Medical Association's COVID-19 Task Group, said tens of thousands of people die from the flu each year.

RELATED: COVID-19 vs. the flu: What's the difference and how to protect yourself

"And I don't think we need any more deaths from viral infections this year if we can avoid it," said Murphey.

He said, while coronavirus cases seem to be on the decline, there are still people with COVID-19 in hospitals and in the ICUs, using ventilators.

"Hospitals are still going to be busy with COVID and, in the wintertime, in the midst of flu season, where those same ICUs and same ventilators are busy taking care of people with influenza, so we don't want to do both of those at the same time," said Murphey.

RELATED: 'Hospitals have plenty of capacity' in Travis County, doctor says. Concern continues as death count rises

He said now is the time of year doctors start talking about the flu vaccine.

"There are some years there's issues getting flu vaccine out or sometimes there are new strains – this year's a normal year as far as flu goes. So there should be plenty of flu vaccine," said Dr. Murphey. "The hard part is, you know, are people going to come out of the house and go to their doctor or go somewhere to get it?"

He said, while many people are staying home, it's still important to get vaccinated to protect yourself from the flu and other diseases.

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