RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The flu took a backseat to COVID the last two years but it may be on the rebound.
“Because the seasons are flipped in the northern and southern hemisphere, Australia usually helps us predict our season pretty well,” said Dr. Nicholas Turner, an associate professor of medicine in the department of infectious diseases at Duke Health.
Australia reports it is seeing a more severe flu season than it has in recent years. Turner said Duke Health has already seen patients for the flu.
“We saw kind of an unusual trend that we had little clusters of flu cases through the summer,” Turner said.
Cases for the flu were significantly down over the pandemic. While not having people sick is a good thing, the annual flu shot recipe relies on the previously circulating strain.
“It means that we’ve got a bit more uncertainty in choosing the right flu vaccine,” Turner explained. “Because there weren’t so many in the last year, we have less to make those predictions.”
Turner remains optimistic about the effectiveness of this year’s shot. The prominent flu circulating Australia is included in vaccine.
“That’s also sometimes a challenging virus. Viruses in that family are known to be a little bit more elusive,” he explained.
Turner said there are pharmaceutical companies working on a shot to provide protection for both COVID-19 and the flu.
“Watching for one of those that we expect to come out in September would still be a reasonable choice and still give you enough time to be protected,” Turner said.
While the flu may not peak for several weeks or months, is it too early to get your flu shot now?
The CDC says it’s best to be vaccinated before the flu begins spreading in your community. They recommend September and October for your shot. The goal should be getting a jab by the end of October.
February is peak season for the flu, according to the CDC. They said significant flu activity can continue into May.
August may be too early depending on the person. The CDC says adults, especially those 65 years and older, should generally not get vaccinated as early as July or August. The CDC said that’s because protection may decrease over time.
Children, on the other hand, can get vaccinated as soon as the vaccine becomes available, the CDC said. Officials said children need two doses of flu vaccine four apart. Parents should consider this timing when it comes to vaccinating their children.