Health

How bad will flu season be and when should I get a chance?

How bad will flu season be and when should I get a chance?
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  • 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 huge difference.

As flu season approaches in the US, rumors of a possible “twin-mic” concoction are once again surfacing.

“This could very well be the year,” Dr. William Schaffner, Vanderbilt infectious disease expert, told NPR’s Up First on Friday, “we have a wave of COVID and an increase in flu at the same time.”

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A major reason infectious disease experts are particularly concerned this year is because Australia’s 2022 flu season was pretty bad, and what happens during the winter flu wave in the southern hemisphere often bodes well for US flu season.

Australian chart of flu cases from year to year, with 2022 looking bad

Australian Department of Health



Leading virologist Florian Krammer says it’s a little too early to say this season is going to be a doozy.

“Of course, flu can come back stronger than usual because there’s a lot of naive substrate around,” he told Insider, referring to people who may not have had the flu in recent years, if at all in the case of young children.

Here are two simple measures Krammer uses to prepare.

Don’t get a flu shot too early, but get it at the end of November

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

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

Other experts agree that the best time to get your flu shot is usually in October or November, as optimal protection typically lasts between four and six months and the flu season can extend well into spring. Last year “the season dragged on for a very long time,” Krammer said, and he wants to maximize his protection.

Even in June, many suspected flu cases were still being recorded in states including Colorado, Florida and in Washington DC:

map of the US showing flu activity in the spring - with scattered bad spots

CDC Flu Display



But if you live in a part of the country where the flu is already on the rise, such as Texas or DC, it may be wise to get a flu shot sooner rather than later:

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

CDC Flu Display



The good news is that this year’s flu shot should fit in well with what’s circulating out there: lots of influenza A.

Vaccination is 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 could 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 putting masks in places where other people might be sick.

“That’s why I think in the winter season or during the cold season it’s a good idea that people in healthcare facilities wear masks, right?” he added. After all, during the 2020-2021 flu season, when most people were still wearing masks to avoid COVID, the flu pretty much disappeared.

“You avoid a lot of things,” Krammer said. “Frankly, personally from now on I will definitely wear a mask on the subway and on planes during the cold season.”

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