The flu season in California started in full force and it has not weakened. Hospitals continue to feel the strain. Children are missing school. Parents are staying home to care for their families. With the peak to flow into next month and it slowly tapering off in May, it is not too late to get the flu shot.
On average, flu season lasts about 13 weeks, but this year may be unprecedented. Hospitalization rates for influenza haven’t been this high this early since the 2009.
Since 2020, the flu has been virtually non-existent due to the mask mandates, frequent washing of hands, and social distancing. These practices were a significant contributor to the very light seasonal flu.
Health experts have analyzed the flu conditions in Australia to better understand ramifications that have and may erupt in the U.S. Because Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere, flu season begins in April and runs through September.
In 2020 and 2021, seasonal flu in Australia was very mild, as it was in most of the world including the US. There were far fewer flu cases reported to health authorities and far fewer hospital admissions related to flu, even for vulnerable populations, than in the prior 5 years.
Behaviorally, 2022 looks much more like it did before COVID. One significant difference – a much higher percentage of Australians (and Americans) did not get seasonal flu shots in 2020 and 2021. This low percentage of population vaccination is unprecedented. The two-year laps in flu vaccinations put many in higher risk to develop symptomatic flu and start infections earlier in the season.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, statewide flu activity is still considered very high but has notably improved from the start of December.
To thwart the flu is to get vaccinated. Fortunately, the flu vaccine is a good match to the current circulating strains and will provide protection.
In L.A. County, estimates suggest that approximately 40% of the population have been vaccinated.
It is not too late to get the seasonal flu vaccine. We urge Californians to ask their primary care provider about the vaccine. While we are still in the flu season, it is important to help decrease any health complications associated with the flu to protect oneself and those around us.
Armin Brott is co-founder and VP of Healthy Men Inc. and serves as their Chief Communications Officer. He lives in the San Francisco area.