MIAMI - Flu season has only just begun, but some health officials are warning that this year it may start sooner and be more severe.
This prediction comes from looking at Australia, where flu season is now coming to an end.
"We inform what we see in our flu season mainly by Australia and New Zealand-- in the other part of the world where seasons are flipped," explains Dr. Joshua Lenchus, Chief Medical Officer at Broward Health. "What they are seeing there are higher incidents of flu than we have seen in years prior."
In fact, data shows Australia has had its worst flu season in five years.
According to the Australian Department of Health's annual Flu Surveillance Report, in 2021, there were only three patients hospitalized due to flu and no deaths.
This year, however, there have already been 1,708 hospital admissions and 288 deaths.
After two years of milder-than-average flu seasons in the U.S., due to people taking more precautions during the pandemic, this year could prove to be more severe.
"We may, in fact, see a blip up in terms of the incidents because of this, sort of, COVID fatigue, says Dr. Lenchus. "Many places have walked back the mask mandates, and, without making a commentary on that, having the masks in place has really tampered down the number of flu cases seen."
Of course, he notes, this is not a perfect science.
As far as COVID goes and the risk of a "twin-demic" this year, Dr. Lenchus says, for now, their hospital is in good shape.
"Our hospitalization numbers are down here throughout Broward health system, as well as in the region and around the country," he says. "The hope is that, as more people are vaccinated or have already been infected and have some element of natural immunity, that subsequent variants won't be as severe."
He recommends people get their flu shot in September or October.
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