Bad flu season in Australia is a warning for the US this year

Pedestrians wear face masks in Los Angeles on Wednesday, July 13, 2022. The United States is likely to experience a severe flu season this year if trends in the Southern Hemisphere – historically have been an omen Seasonal newspaper for the United States – true.

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The US is likely to experience a severe flu season this year if trends in the Southern Hemisphere – historically a seasonal harbinger for the US – hold true.

This is not the first time since the Covid pandemic began that experts have warned of a bad flu season or even a “pandemic”: a bad flu season coupled with a winter outbreak of Covid. But so far, that has not materialized.

What makes this year different, however, is the first flu outbreak in Australia since the pandemic began. Flu season in Australia could be a sign of what’s to come in the US

Australia is nearing the end of its worst flu season in five years, according to latest report from the country’s Ministry of Health and Aging.

Dr Alicia Fry, Director of the Epidemiology and Prevention Branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said: “We are monitoring all the countries of the Southern Hemisphere very closely, hoping that we get a look. some depth, but it’s not perfect by any means.” Control and Prevention.

Still, she said, the CDC is “very alert” for signs of an early and/or strong flu season in the US.

An average of 41 million people contract the flu every year, resulting in about 52,000 deaths, according to the CDC CDC.

Warning signs for winter

How can a vulnerable population prepare

Usually, people are exposed to more than one type of flu every year, which helps build immunity to the virus.

But with little flu in the past two seasons, that immunity has waned. Young children in particular may be most at risk because their immune systems are even less exposed to the virus, experts say.

“There’s been a lot of young children who haven’t had the flu in the past few years,” said Dr. James Cutrell, an infectious disease specialist at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. “That would make them more susceptible to getting sick and then spreading it to others.”

Cutrell said people shouldn’t panic about the upcoming flu season but “it’s time for everyone to prepare.”

That mostly involves updating vaccines for both flu and Covid.

“Protecting against one viral infection can help protect against the other, and vice versa,” said Dr. Robert Citronberg, executive medical director of infectious disease and prevention at Advocate Aurora Health. .

Both Covid and flu can cause “significant pneumonia,” says Citronberg. “Once you have pneumonia, you are vulnerable to other infections or pathogens.”

Doctors’ offices and pharmacies in the US will receive shipments of the flu vaccine in the coming weeks. Fry of the CDC says the best time to get most people vaccinated is in September or October.

She said two groups in particular should get the shot sooner if possible: young children who will need two shots this year and women in the third trimester of pregnancy.

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“It’s best to get vaccinated before getting vaccinated so the baby gets some of the antibodies that the mother develops and the baby is protected,” says Fry. Infants are not eligible for the flu shot until they are 6 months old.

According to the CDC, children under the age of 9 who have never had a flu shot should get two doses this year, at least four weeks apart.

In addition, children in that age group who received only one shot in previous flu seasons may also need two shots this year.

Historically, however, Americans have been in no rush to get a flu shot. Only about half of the US population CDC reported on the 2020-21 season. And while there’s no guarantee the shots will prevent infection, learn have shown they can reduce the risk of dying or ending up in the hospital from severe flu.

“The flu is not completely preventable with a vaccine, but it can be controlled,” says Citronberg. “If we get significantly fewer people getting the flu shot this year, that could really affect the number of cases we get and the severity of those cases.”

If that happens, Citronberg predicts, “we’ll give up.”

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