Experts say it’s still too soon to predict whether this year’s flu season will be as long or severe as it has been in recent years, but flu activity has already begun increasing. For this reason, health officials are urging everyone over the age of 6 months to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
While the fact that Australia was hit early and hard by the flu this year suggests a possibly severe flu season in the U.S., Dr. Michael Ben-Aderet, associate director of Hospital Epidemiology at Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai hospital, says that flu season is “never totally predictable.”
However, he says getting a flu shot in early fall — before flu viruses begin spreading in your community — can help minimize the risk of getting sick.
“People can protect themselves by getting vaccinated,” Ben-Aderet said told CNBC. “Getting vaccinated is important not only for ourselves, but for the people around us.”
Flu shot recommended
Flu season typically peaks between December and February, and it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to build full immunity to the illness. Health authorities recommend getting vaccinated around the end of October or the beginning of November.
The 2017-18 flu season was declared as one of the most severe on record, ultimately resulting in more than 80,000 deaths and a record-breaking 900,000 hospitalizations for flu-related illnesses like pneumonia. Last year, the flu sickened more than 6 million Americans.
Health officials say this year’s flu vaccine has been updated based off the Southern Hemisphere’s flu season and other elevated flu activity.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months get vaccinated each year. Children need two doses of the vaccine to be protected, so they should start the process sooner than adults since those doses must be administered at least four weeks apart.
There are different flu shots approved for use in adults 65 years and older. The CDC recommends that people discuss their options with a doctor.