CLEVELAND – Flu season is just around the corner. And if prediction models are accurate, the virus may be more severe this winter.
“This year, in the Southern Hemisphere, influenza has been quite active and it’s impacted younger age groups than we might typically see,” said Susan Rehm, MD, infectious disease specialist for Cleveland Clinic. “The reason that’s important is that what happens in the Southern Hemisphere predicts what’s going to happen in the Northern Hemisphere, so I think we have to prepare for the reality that there will be a worse flu season this year.”
Dr. Rehm said there are a couple of reasons why we should expect to see more flu cases this year.
One is masking, the past few years people were wearing masks regularly to prevent COVID-19, which also reduced the spread of flu.
However, mask use has declined and this could be a factor in having a worse flu season.
Another reason is waning immunity, because flu was mild the past couple of years, we weren’t exposed as much so our immunity may have dropped.
Knowing that flu season could be rough this year, Dr. Rehm said there should be extra urgency to get a flu shot, especially for those considered high risk.
“We’re all susceptible to the flu. People who are very young, very old or who have chronic medical conditions are at risk for more complications and more severe flu,” she said. “So, while it’s important for all of us to get vaccinated, it’s really important for young people, older people and people who have illnesses to get vaccinated.”
Flu vaccine is recommended for everyone age six months and older.
And there’s good news if you’re due for a COVID-19 booster, Dr. Rehm said it’s safe to get both the flu shot and COVID-19 shots together.