Experts warn of severe flu season as outbreaks start to pop up

Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 12:45 PM EST
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(CNN) - Flu outbreaks are already popping up in some parts of the country just as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report about the impact a severe flu season may have on vulnerable health care systems.

Experts warn this flu season may be worse than last year.

“It’s very possible will experience a more severe flu season than we did last year. Many experts are predicting that,” said Dr. Jennifer Caudle, a family physician and associate professor at Rowan University.

Caudle said the flu is back after essentially taking a break last season, when COVID-19 put a bigger emphasis on public health measures like handwashing, mask use and social distancing, which helped keep flu activity low.

The CDC recommends the flu vaccine for all people 6 months or older. They also said that it is safe to receive both the COVID-19 vaccine and the flu vaccine at the same time.

“If you can do it conveniently in one visit, so whatever it takes to get both of them, go ahead and do it,” Caudle said. “If it’s one visit, it’s perfectly fine.”

Clusters of cases are already happening in different parts of the country.

Last week, the CDC confirmed it’s helping investigate an outbreak of more than 500 flu cases among students at the University of Michigan.

That’s the biggest single outbreak so far.

Experts said the misconception that the flu shot makes people sick often keeps them from getting it.

“If you don’t feel well after the vaccine, sometimes it’s merely our response to the vaccine,” Caudle said. “And also remember it takes about two weeks for the flu shot to actually develop protectiveness in our body.”

Meanwhile, a recent report from the CDC shows influenza viruses may pose a risk to health care systems already overburdened by the coronavirus pandemic.

“The last thing we need is for there to be even more burden on the healthcare system and people getting further ill,” Caudle said.

The flu is estimated to cause about 710,000 hospitalizations and up to 61,000 deaths each year in the U.S.

Experts say flu season typically peaks between December and February, but it can continue through May.

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