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Flu season expected to be severe, experts say a flu shot can help avoid massive spread this winter

Steven Cornfield

The flu is making a comeback this fall and winter. Wearing masks, socially distancing, and consistent hand washing kept cases of the flu at bay over the past couple years. But with most pandemic mitigation strategies gone – the spread of the annual virus is even more likely this season.

Sparrow Health System Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Paul Entler says getting a flu shot will be key in preventing massive spread.

"This upcoming one looks like it's going to be quite severe, in terms of the severity of illness, and the volume of cases of flu, as indicative of what's been happening in the southern hemisphere," he said.

According to influenza data from Australia's Government Department of Health and Aged Care there have been more confirmed flu cases this year than in the last five years.

Entler says this should be an indication of what we can expect to see in the United States.

"The available vaccines are one of the best defenses we have at preventing a massive spread. And we don't know what's going to happen with COVID in the fall," he said. "We're starting to see cases go up. So if we have both of those, we want to make sure within our hospital and health systems that we're able to handle the capacity of both."

If you are at high risk, over 65 years old, or younger and pregnant Entler recommends getting a flu shot.

“But for those that maybe have never not gotten it too seriously, consider it this year to protect others," he said.

Entler says its important to schedule a flu shot as early as October to help maximize community protection for those most vulnerable.

"If I'm able to generate antibodies, I'm less likely to be a carrier of the flu virus and transmit it to another, like someone that may be at higher risk," he said.

The symptoms of the flu include fevers, chills, muscle aches, cough, diarrhea and nausea. While both COVID-19 and the flu show up with similar symptoms, Entler says the incubation time with the flu is much shorter than it is with COVID. To have maximum protection against COVID and the flu, Entler advises getting both a COVID booster shot and a flu vaccine.

"You can actually get a flu and a COVID shot at the same time. ... You can get one in one arm and one in the other arm," he said.

You can schedule a flu shot with your local pharmacy, county health department or with your primary care physician.

As WKAR's Bilingual Latinx Stories Reporter, Michelle reports in both English and Spanish on stories affecting Michigan's Latinx community.
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