Health experts are warning this flu season might be worse than a few years ago. Is that a good indicator?
"It was Australia's worst flu season in 5 years and came earlier than any other flu season with the exception of the '09 pandemic," said Dr. Andrew Pekosz, a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
In the past two flu seasons, COVID protocols like mask wearing, hand washing and lockdowns have protected us from the flu virus. Now that restrictions have been lifted, people are traveling more. We're more than likely to come into contact with the virus. Another reason is there were fewer people who got the flu, which means less natural immunity.
Dr. Bruce Y. Lee is a journalist at CUNY Graduate School of Public Health.
"But now that that many people aren't maintaining a lot of those precautions and also the fact that people haven't been exposed to the flu over the past couple of years leave people a lot more susceptible," said Lee.
Experts recommend getting the flu shot — or getting both a COVID booster and flu shot at the same time.
"Both of those are needed, both of those should be scheduled as soon as possible and ideally at the same time, so that one doesn't fall into the trap of getting one and forgetting to get back to get the other," said Pekosz.
But others are choosing not to get the flu vaccine, like an Omaha resident who says she's never gotten the flu.
"I'll wait and see if I get it, I just try to eat healthy live healthy, stay healthy, clean and neat," said Theresa Gart.
"The influenza vaccine won't prevent you from getting influenza but it dramatically decreases your illness and dramatically decreases your risk of hospitalization," said Dan Fick, a doctor at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
This holds particularly for the elderly and children who are the most vulnerable. A NIH 2020 study found vaccines reduced flu-related hospitalizations for children by 41% and ER visits by 51%.
"The best thing you can do to get your child ready to stay healthy and in school, is to get them vaccinated and boosted. It is a lot. 'As a parent of three kids I can't take them all together because then they all scream.' I know this pain. But it is really important to keep your child healthy and in school," said Keri Alhoff, a researcher at Johns Hopkins Blomberg School of Public Health.
Ultimately, it's also about preventing a strain on our medical system as we go through another winter season of the pandemic and flu.
"What we always say is we don't do it for us, we are doing it for other people so we want to make sure if we are around babies or around older people we are looking out for them," said Jessica Charlsen, who took all three of her kids to get a flu shot.