Last year’s flu epidemic was one of the worst on record. Although experts say it’s too soon to predict how severe this year’s flu season will be, the number of cases is already rising and health professionals are urging the public to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
It’s currently recommended that everyone over the age of six months old should get vaccinated. In particular, those from high risk groups, like children under 5, adults over 65, and those with existing health conditions should get a winter flu jab to protect themselves.
Flu season usually peaks between December and February. However, as Australia has been hit early by the flu this year, the CDC says that it’s possible that it could be a severe season again – although, flu is never totally predictable and the number of cases varies each season.
Therefore, according to Dr. Michael Ben-Aderet, associate director of Hospital Epidemiology at Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai hospital, getting vaccinated early is the best chance to stop viruses spreading in communities and minimise the risk of the virus spreading.
It usually takes around two weeks for the vaccine to fully kick in and build full immunity to the illness. Because of this, most experts recommend, in order to be fully protected, getting the flu jab around the end of October to the beginning of November.
The 2017-2018 flu season resulted in over 80,000 deaths, as well as 900,000 hospitalisations – the highest number of record – for flu-related illnesses like pneumonia. It also caused over 6 million illnesses in the US alone, as well as many more around the world.
The CDC has recommended that everyone over 6 months old get vaccinated every year. For children, this consists of two doses of the vaccine at least four weeks apart, meaning they need to begin the vaccination process earlier than adults. For those over 65, there are different flu shots and older people should discuss this with their doctor.