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Why local health experts are concerned about flu season

Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 11:45 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Flu season is back, but what will this year look like? Remarkably, last year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a little more than 2,000 cases of the flu from September of last year until April of this year. In comparison, the year before, there were more than 38 million flu cases. With the season here again, local health experts are reminding us to get our flu shots.

The proof came last year. Masks and social distancing work even for flu season. And while they’re hoping this year is a similar story with more people back in groups at school and big gatherings, they’re holding their breath it doesn’t become a perfect storm.

“The concern is that with people out a bit more than they were this time last year and with less social distancing, with less use of masks, that we might have a worse flu season or let me put it another way a bad flu season,” said Dr. Rodger MacArthur, infectious disease specialist with the Medical College of Georgia.

The CDC says last year’s flu season was unusually low. In fact, it had the lowest number of hospitalizations since they started collecting this type of data in 2005. Health officials say it’s because of masking and distancing. Now that we’re returning to normal our local health officials anticipate seeing more cases this year.

“Better than average less severe than average because we are still wearing masks, we are still somewhat social distancing, we haven’t gotten rid of SARS CoV2,” he said.

According to Health Line, every year 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. gets the flu. That’s anywhere from 16.4 to 65.6 million people. And Dr. MacArthur says although the flu vaccine is only about 50 percent effective it will still protect you from developing severe symptoms. So when should you get yours?

“Takes a few weeks to get full protection, just as it does with SARS CoV2 or the COVID-19 vaccines and so as we’re approaching October it becomes a really great time to start thinking about getting it,” he said.

And the reason they’re more worried this year is if hospitals are filled with COVID patients and then flu season spikes, there’s nowhere to go for an already overwhelmed health care system.

And if you’re wondering where you can get your flu shot you can go to https://www.fluzone.com/ and use the locator. All you have to do is type in your zip code and local pharmacies and practices will pop up.

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