AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – “We are watching increasing numbers of influenza come across the state of Georgia,” said Dr. Lee Merchen, the director of Richmond County Health Department.

She, along with other doctors in the area, said she expects more influenza cases in the CSRA this year than in the past two years.

“It is important to note that it’s starting to pick up,” said Dr. Jose Vazquez, the chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University. “Eighteen cases is pretty significant in the past two months when we shouldn’t be having any, maybe just a handful.”

A CDC study showed that cases went down during the pandemic, which could’ve been due to COVID-19 guidelines, doctors said.

“We have a large population of humans that haven’t been affected with the flu in several years,” Merchen said. “And when that’s the situation, the virus does tend to find opportunity.”

Now, without social distancing and mask mandates, doctors are urging people to get their flu shots as soon as possible.

“The recommendation is everybody should be getting a vaccine now,” Vazquez said. “There’s many different vaccines that are available.”

He said the strain he’s been seeing the most is Influenza A, the most common and most severe. It has two subtypes – Influenza B does as well.

“That’s why we have what’s called a quadrivalent vaccine because it covers all four of those influenzas,” Vazquez said.

Children older than six months old qualify for flu shots, and they’re available at any local pharmacy or doctor’s office.