How bad will the flu season be and when should I get vaccinated?

  • This year’s US flu season could be bad, based on what happened in Australia.
  • Getting a flu shot in October or November is a good idea.
  • And strategic masking during cold and flu season can make a world of difference.

With flu season approaching in the US, whispers of a possible “twin-demic” are beginning to surface once again.

“This very well could be the year,” Vanderbilt infectious disease expert Dr. William Schaffner told NPR’s Up First on Friday, “we have an increase in COVID and, simultaneously, an increase in influenza.”

A major reason infectious disease experts are especially concerned this year is that the 2022 flu season in Australia was pretty bad, and what happens during the southern hemisphere winter flu surge often bodes well for the flu season in the US

Australian chart of year-over-year flu cases, with 2022 looking bleak

Australian Department of Health

Leading virologist Florian Krammer says it’s too early to say this season will be great.

“Of course the flu could come back stronger than usual, because there’s a lot of naive substrate,” he told Insider, referring to people who might not have had the flu in recent years, or at all, in the case of children. little ones. .

Here are two simple measures Krammer uses to prepare.

Don’t get your flu shot too soon, but get it in late November

Krammer, who lives in New York, where flu activity is currently low, said he plans to wait until the end of November to get vaccinated this year.

“I always do that, and I’m not going to stray this year,” he said.

Other experts agree that the best time to get a flu shot is usually in October or November, since optimal protection typically lasts four to six months, and flu season can last well into spring. Last year, “the season got really long,” Krammer said, and he wants to maximize his protection.

Even in June, there were still many suspected flu cases in states like Colorado, Florida, and Washington DC:

US map showing flu activity in the spring, with scattered bug spots

CDC Influenza View

But, if you live in an area of ​​the country where the flu is already on the rise, like Texas or DC, it might be wise to get a flu shot as soon as possible:

US map showing flu activity now, with cases in Texas, DC

CDC Influenza View

The good news is that this year’s flu shot should match what’s out there: a lot of swine flu.

Getting vaccinated will be especially important for young children under the age of 3, who may not have been exposed to the flu virus in their lifetime.

Smart masking can make the flu go away

Fortunately, the flu is “relatively easy to stop” compared to COVID, Krammer said, by staying home when we’re sick and covering places where other people might be sick.

“That’s why I think it’s a good idea during the winter season or during the cold season for people in health centers to wear masks, right?” he added she. After all, during the 2020-2021 flu season, when most people were still wearing masks to avoid COVID, the flu was all but gone.

“You avoid a lot of things,” Krammer said. “Honestly, personally, I’m going to wear a mask on the subway and on planes from now on during the cold season, for sure.”

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