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What You Need to Know This Flu Season

What You Need to Know This Flu Season

It’s been a light flu season the past two years because of COVID-19 restrictions, masking requirements and post-travel quarantines, but health officials are seeing this year’s flu season hit harder and earlier than we have seen in years. That means this is not the year to skip that flu vaccine, and you should be making plans now to get it before the end of October.

The U.S. looks to Australia and the Southern Hemisphere to help indicate how severe a flu season can be. While what happens below the equator is never a perfect predictor of what will happen above it, flu-transmission experts report that confirmed cases have far surpassed its five-year average, making this season one of the worst in several years, especially for kids.

Experts suggest that children’s immune systems are less equipped to handle the influx of germs due to a couple of flu-less years. Older populations are more cautious now and will typically avoid large crowds or wear a mask to protect themselves, so infections tend to target the younger, less cautious populations. Infectious disease specialists add that “vaccine fatigue” and a decline in routine immunizations may also play a part in the higher-than-average flu season. Interest in routine inoculations has declined since the COVID-19 pandemic began and has pushed immunization efforts off track globally.

Annual flu vaccines are recommended for anyone six months and older by the end of October to ensure protection throughout the influenza season. Young children under the age of 5, pregnant women and those with chronic medical conditions are at the greatest risk of infection.

Flu symptoms often come on suddenly and can include:

  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Fever or chills
  • Body and muscle aches
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Fatigue

Common flu symptoms can mimic symptoms of COVID-19, strep and other respiratory viruses, so it is important to be tested and accurately diagnosed to determine the course of treatment and to help reduce the risk of spreading the virus to those around you.