Australia has just had a serious flu season, with three times more cases than usual. They also started seeing cases about two months earlier than normal. Why does that matter to us in Northwest Arkansas? Our seasons are the opposite of those in the Southern Hemisphere, so we get a preview of the year’s flu season when we look at the experience in Australia.
The Southern Hemisphere flu season in 2022 is making American experts foresee an earlier flu season, and perhaps a worse one, here in the U.S.
One reason for the change could be that COVID-19 precautions helped guard against the flu, too. Wearing masks, social distancing, and conscientious hand washing kept many people from catching the flu for the past couple of years.
Now that fewer of us are taking those steps, we’re more vulnerable to other respiratory diseases, such as the flu, as well as to COVID-19.
Each year is different, though, because different variants of the flu show up each year. The vaccines guard against the strains of the virus that are showing up most strongly in the upcoming season.
What to do about the flu
The best response to the concerns about the coming flu season is to get your flu shot now. Everyone age six months and older should have a flu vaccination. Some people are more at risk than others for severe cases of the flu, or for complications:
- People 65 and older
- Children under age 2
- Pregnant women
- People with neurological conditions
- Asthma sufferers
- People with chronic diseases such as COPD, diabetes, kidney disease, or liver disease
- People with a BMI of 40 or more
However, even if you’re not in a high-risk group, you should get the vaccine. The CDC reports that there are 12,000 to 61,000 flu-related deaths in the United States each year.
Many MANA clinics offer flu vaccines. Call your doctor to make an appointment.