It's officially the flu season in the U.S. and if projections are correct, it will be a difficult one.
"The Southern Hemisphere just finished their influenza season and it's been one of the worst flu seasons that they have had," says Dr. Gregory Poland, director of the Mayo Clinic Vaccine Research Group. "We expect that this fall, winter, early spring in the U.S. is likely to be a very bad flu season. This is all the more reason that we are really pushing for people to protect themselves and their family, and get a flu vaccine."
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Dr. Poland says a bad flu season, such as the one in the Southern Hemisphere, refers to a season with circulating influenza strains that are highly transmissible and cause a lot of illness. "They had a tremendous amount of pneumonia, hospitalizations and deaths. All of those complications can occur, in addition to being off work for a week or more, not feeling well, missing family events. This is a virus that every year causes billions of dollars of economic loss and untold amounts of misery."
Getting a flu shot is the best way to prevent illness. People over the age of 6 months is encouraged to get their annual flu shot.
"During our 2017–2018 influenza season, we saw 80,000 Americans die as a result of complications from influenza, with over 900,000 hospitalized," says Dr. Poland. "This is not just the flu. This is not just a benign virus. My guess is that this year will equal or be worse than that year."