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The Baltimore City Health Department is texting you to get a flu shot. Here’s why.

Received a text from the Baltimore City Health Department within the past few days? It’s not a scam.

The health department started texting residents Wednesday to remind them to get a flu shot.

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Multiple health offices and groups are launching campaigns to spur people to get vaccinated. Here’s why:

Public health officials are trying to prevent overwhelming the health care system

If someone gets the flu and is required to be hospitalized, it has the potential to take a bed away from someone battling the coronavirus.

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As COVID-19 continues to spread — and nearly half of Maryland hospitals are already 90% full — they need every available spot they can get.

The idea is to try to stop a dual outbreak of the viruses, as the flu vaccine is likely to prevent someone from getting the flu.

The city is texting about 300,000 residents, according to Adam Abadir, a spokesman for the city’s health department.

“We would hope that even if someone has gotten their flu shot already, receiving this text might encourage them to tell their friends and family to get vaccinated,” Abadir said. “We also want to let residents know of our flu vaccine vouchers program, providing Baltimore City residents an opportunity to receive a free flu shot if they don’t have health insurance.”

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Is the flu different from COVID-19?

Yes. Although the symptoms are similar, they are different viruses. And it is possible to get them at the same time, according to doctors.

Symptoms for the flu are fever, cough, sore throat and vomiting, among others.

You may need tests for your doctor to know whether you have the flu or COVID-19.

Is one more dangerous than the other?

Both can cause people to get extremely sick, leading to hospitalization or death.

The flu kills 12,000 to 60,000 people each year, and hundreds of thousands are typically hospitalized. The CDC estimates about 4.4 million cases were prevented last year through vaccination, which is recommended for everyone age 6 months and older.

Maryland’s emergency departments reported visits for more than 100,000 suspected flu cases and 67 deaths last season.

The state has 205,399 confirmed coronavirus cases and 4,606 deaths since March. On Thursday, the state reported 2,044 new coronavirus cases and 48 deaths tied to COVID-19, the most in a single day since May.

Will the vaccine also prevent me from getting the coronavirus?

No. It will only help prevent you from getting the flu.

Where can I get a flu shot?

There are numerous locations throughout the city that are offering the flu shot.

You can also get one at your doctor’s office and many pharmacies.

To find a place, you can check the city’s flu vaccine locator map to find a spot near you.

Baltimore Sun reporter Ben Leonard contributed to this article.

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