Doctors Expecting Worse Than Normal Flu Season In U.S.

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A change of seasons is upon us. It’s flu shot season.

“People should absolutely not wait,” says Allegheny General Hospital primary care physician Dr. Marc Itskowitz. “Now is the right time to get the flu vaccine. The month of September or October are the best two months.”

Flu trackers watch what’s happening on the other side of the world to figure out which flu strains to expect and what kind of flu season to brace for. And Australia has had a particularly rough time.

“Typically, the flu travels from the southern to the northern hemisphere. There are some early indications that this year’s flu season in the United States may be worse than normal,” says Dr. Itskowitz.

The expected strains are H3N2 and H1N1. These are covered by the Quadrivalent vaccine, which also includes a couple Influenza B strains.

“We’ve seen an interesting trend the last couple years where we’ve seen more B influenza later in the season,” Dr. Itskowitz says.

If you’re 65 or older, you’ll want a high dose shot, which drives a more robust immune response.

Whichever vaccine you get, get it now. It takes two weeks for full immunity. If you wait, you risk not being protected when the flu arrives in November.

Last year’s version was 48 percent effective, which is not as good as other years at 60 to 80 percent. Time will tell how well we match this year.

Vaccines are widely available now and are usually covered by insurance.

Keep in mind that if you miss a week of work because of the flu, that $25 will seem small in comparison to what the actual flu could do to you,” Dr. Itskowitz points out. “You are in bed, debilitated, and sometimes sick and hospitalized because of it.”

Also, the Allegheny County Health Department has some low-cost options.

“Some of my patients previously didn’t get the flu shot, but then had a bad case of influenza. They’re usually the first in line the following year,” says Dr. Itskowitz.

More from Dr. Maria Simbra

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