CLEVELAND — The Centers for Disease Control says 11% of the population comes down with Influenza each year, but this year doctors are saying they are expecting a bigger surge in cases than usual.
Mask fatigue and lower immunity are two of the biggest reasons why experts fear cases may spike this season after case volumes stayed relatively mild over the past two years. As the weather gets colder and more people start coming indoors, doctors say the sooner you get a flu shot, the better.
“Indoor time, a lot of family time, and that's respiratory virus time,” said Dr. Kenneth Koncilja, a Cleveland Clinic geriatric medicine physician.
Flu season in Northeast Ohio typically peaks in February or March and we don’t usually see a high number of cases in the fall. Doctors look to Australia to get a feel for how our flu season might shake out, and they’re noticing a concerning trend.
“Australia had a significantly earlier flu season than normal, two months earlier and it was three times as severe as the typical average over the last 20 years,” said Koncilja.
Doctors say flu season hasn’t been as severe over the last two years because of masking and social distancing, with few cases reported last year. But as the world goes back to normal, they’re anticipating a spike in Influenza this season.
“Last year there was more of a flu season than there was in 2020, but we had a very mild flu season,” said Koncilja.
The CDC recommends everyone six months or older get a flu vaccine annually. Health experts warn parents should be extra cautious this year when their child goes back to school. The flu is also dangerous to people 65 and older or those with underlying medical conditions.
“Influenza causes a tremendous amount of inflammation in your body,” said Dr. Keith Armitage, head of the Roe Green Center for Travel Medicine and International health. “If you're frail and just don't have much reserve, don't have much near cardiac reserve or pulmonary reserve, it can be really a serious illness.”
Experts are suggesting a revived-up shot for seniors that offers extra protection to the standard flu shot.
“There's a higher dose flu shot that gives longer-lasting protection,” Armitage said. “We do recommend what's called the high dose flu shot for people over 65,”
With COVID-19 still a threat, many people are asking if they can still get a COVID booster. Doctors say yes, and that it’s a good idea to get them at the same time.