LOUISVILLE, Ky. — That fact that Flu levels in Australia have exceeded five-year averages is disconcerting. The southern hemisphere often predicts what happens in northern regions during the winter. Doctors are eyeing the trend as well.
Norton Healthcare infectious disease specialist, Dr. Paul Schulz, sees what looks like an early and possibly challenging flu season.
Schulz explained that social distancing, face masks, and frequent hand washing were the likely cause of milder flu seasons during the pandemic.
“So the concern is that because we’re not doing that like we did in 2020 and 2021 that we may have a more severe flu season here this season,” says Schulz.
Norton Healthcare charted a 10% test positivity rate last week, up 6% from the previous week. A higher positivity number can indicate an increase in virus circulation. Schulz recommends getting vaccinated since it provides the best protection against the flu. He also said that now is the time to do it.
Schulz understands that there’s vaccination fatigue among the public. He also recognizes that patients are less interested in the new covid boosters and compared to previous years, the flu shot.
“Hopefully that’s just shortly a trend or something that I’m seeing in my local practice, but if that’s happening around the community, then we could have a bigger problem in the next couple of weeks to months,” says Schulz.
Emily Beckman, a Norton Healthcare nurse practitioner, is also encouraging people to get vaccinated against both viruses now.
She says like the COVID-19 vaccines, you could experience mild side effects after receiving the flu shot. She says they are nothing compared to a bad case of the flu.
“In some cases, it can be worse than COVID,” says Beckman. “That feeling like you got hit by a bus, that high fever, body aches, and the potential concern of being hospitalized.”
Unlike COVID, Dr. Schulz says if you get a severe case of the flu, there aren’t many readily available treatments.
“Every year people die of influenza,” says Schulz. “Really the message that we want to continue to send is that you have a role to play even if you’re the healthiest person on the planet you can help somebody else by getting immunized.”
He says to reach herd immunity, 80% of the community needs to be vaccinated, so it is important that to get vaccinated ahead of the season.
People can also get the flu shot at the same time as other vaccinations, including the new COVID-19 booster. It takes about two weeks for antibodies to develop after receiving the flu shot.