SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — With schools back in session and fall on the way, health experts are bracing for what may be an intense flu season.
The virus’ strength in the U.S. typically follows the Southern Hemisphere, which is seeing its worst flu season in nearly five years, explained Dr. Lawton Davis, director of the Coastal Health District.
“If historical trends follow, we’ll probably have a worse flu season than we’ve had in several years,” Lawton said. “In Georgia, already, we’re one of three states where influenza activity is not at a very low level. We are at a moderate level which is actually fairly high for this time of year.”
According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, flu season can start as early as October and run as late as May, typically hitting its peak in December.
This will be the third flu season with COVID-19 also spreading in communities. Last week, the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) top vaccine expert predicted another fall surge, likely to peak at the start of December. With relaxed mask-wearing and distancing guidelines, health officials are encouraging people to get their flu shot and COVID vaccine.
“It’s definitely possible to be co-infected with influenza and with COVID, there’s no reason one could not be and that likely would not be a happy experience,” Davis said.
Experts say the best time to get your flu shot is mid-September or October. Georgetown Drug Company in Savannah is already offering them, but so far demand has been slow.
“It hasn’t been as high as we thought compared to last year, however,” said Dr. Neal Hollis, pharmacist and owner of Georgetown Drug Company. “That comes saying we have all the new boosters with COVID coming out as well, and you can actually get those together.”
Hollis said the pharmacy has generally seen an increase in people getting flu shots since the onset of the pandemic. Despite the potential of a bad flu season, experts say the vaccine is still effective at preventing severe illness.
“Our flu shot has four different strains of former flus in it and so you have an increased chance of basically getting all your bases covered with that,” Hollis said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also recommending some kids 6 months to 8 years old should get two doses of the flu shot this season, especially if this is their first time getting it. Officials say to check with your primary care doctor to see if this applies to your child.