Flu season is winding down in Australia and it’s been the worst one in years. Public health officials fear it will be equally severe when it reaches the United states.
“We watch all of the Southern Hemisphere countries very closely, hoping that we get some sort of insight, but it’s not perfect by any means,” Dr. Alicia Fry, chief of the Epidemiology and Prevention Branch of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told NBC News.
In Australia, kids between the ages of 5 to 9 were hardest hit while teenagers and children under 5 were also hit hard. Australia’s flu season took hold earlier than usual which tends to make it more severe.
[A]n early season can also be one that continues for more months, having more time to infect people. Between 9 million and 41 million Americans get the flu each year, according to the CDC. As many as 52,000 people die.
The influenza vaccine is always a gamble. Health officials have to guess which flu strains circulating in the southern hemisphere are likely to spread to the United States the following winter. Multiple flu strains are possible. The U.S. now uses a quadrivalent influenza vaccine that protects against four of the mostly likely strains to reach the U.S.
A quadrivalent influenza (flu) vaccine is designed to protect against four different flu viruses, including two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses.
One worry is that pairing a bad flu season with a surge in Covid could put more Americans at risk. A lot of kids have not had the flu in a few years due to masking and Covid lockdowns. The longer it’s been since you’ve had the flu, the more susceptible you are. Officials also point out that protection against one viral infection imparts some protection against others. Officials are recommending a Covid booster along with a flu shot.