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Health

Flu Season Is Upon Us. How Bad Will It Be?

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A professor of infectious diseases at the University of Cincinnati and UC Health isn't sure what the upcoming flu season will look like here, but he says it hasn't been bad in Australia. Dr. Carl Fichtenbaum says epidemiologists consider Australia because disease tracking is done thoroughly there.

Fichtenbaum says typically, there are 200 to 400 hospitalizations for flu in Australia, but for the last two seasons, there've been none. He says documented cases there are usually around 10,000 in any given season, but "they've had under 400 cases of documented influenza," he says. "Now, the caveat is that the use of masks and handwashing and social distancing is a little bit more rigorous in Australia than it is here."

Influenza cases typically start showing up in the Cincinnati area in November and December.

Fichtenbaum says no one can predict what the flu will be like for sure this year, but if Americans wear masks and wash their hands, the season will likely be light, like last year.

He doesn't think highly publicized resistance to COVID vaccines will translate into lower vaccination rates for influenza. Fichtenbaum says those who have refused the COVID vaccine make up a vocal minority. "Many of those individuals are overlapping with those who have not taken influenza vaccination in the past. Our influenza vaccination rates in general are about 50% at best, in the adult population."

Fichtenbaum says most people shouldn't worry about having a reaction to the flu vaccine if they've had COVID or the COVID shot, because the two vaccines work in different ways.