Michigan health experts expect a bad flu season

Doctors are concerned this flu season may be worse than we are used to.
Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 7:02 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Influenza was kind of on the back burner during the pandemic. That’s because all the COVID precautions help keep the flu virus from spreading like it normally does. But doctors are worried this flu season may be a lot worse than we are used to.

Influenza cases have been down significantly the last two years during the pandemic, but experts are warning the U.S. could be in for a particularly bad flu season if trends in the Southern hemisphere hold true.

Dr. Tressa Gardner, with McLaren, said Australia reports that it is nearing the end of its worst flu season in five years.

“If you look over some of the countries on the other side of the world, they’re having a pretty strong flu season. Australia, Peru, and some of the other areas that are in their winter while we are in our summer,” said Gardner. “So that’s a little bit alarming for us the flu season may take front seat to COVID.”

It started earlier than usual, which can be a sign of a severe season. Gardner said there is a high level of concern for both COVID and the flu.

“I think we’re going to see COVID again in the winter months, and I’m very cautious about our flu season, as we merge out of this pandemic and masks are not being worn as much as before,” said Gardner.

Dr. Subhashis Mitra, Michigan State University’s Infectious Disease Chief, said children - ages five through nine - are at elevated risk.

“Unfortunately, within the last couple of years, because we haven’t had much flu going around, so the kids - particularly pre-k and kids in daycare - haven’t had any protection, their bodies haven’t really been exposed to flu,” Mitra said.

Mitra said the best way to stay safe with the two viruses is to get vaccinated.

Kids can get vaccinated as young as six months. Doctors recommend getting vaccinated in September or October. Before influenza typically starts spreading. Many County Health Departments will give you a flu shot for free or at a reduced cost if you don’t have insurance.

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