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Doctors forecasting a more severe flu season

The last two seasons have been relatively mild because of COVID-19.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Fall is officially here which means flu season is right around the corner and this year, there’s added urgency to get the flu shot. Doctors are forecasting this season could be more severe than the last few.

As the seasons change and the flu season begins, the Southern Hemisphere’s season is ending. What happened there is causing doctors here to pause.

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“I don’t want to be too much of a doomsday sayer, but we certainly saw more activity in the Southern Hemisphere and that usually is predictive of what we’re going to see in the Northern Hemisphere, so we are anticipating seeing a significant uptick in flu activity soon,” Dr. Charles Bregier with Novant Health said.

While the world was laser focused on slowing the spread of COVID-19, it also kept flu cases down. COVID-19 protocols like masking and social distancing made the past two flu seasons relatively mild.

“As people got away from masking in particular and other strategies, hand washing social distancing, we did see an uptick in flu,” Bregier said. “We do anticipate that this will be a significant contributing factor this year to the fact we’re likely to see a lot more cases of the flu.”

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Because the flu hasn’t been so prevalent, the community’s built-up immunity to it has likely waned. Doctors stress that annual flu shots will be necessary protection. The vaccines typically cause a 40 to 60% reduction in hospitalizations and severe illness.

“It’s especially important that people get the flu vaccines as soon as they can. September and October is ideal. As well as get the new COVID booster whenever it's appropriate and the time is right for you to get it,” Bregier said.

Doctors say hand washing, staying home when sick and bringing back masking and social distancing will help navigate what is expected to be a rough flu season.

Contact Chloe Leshner at cleshner@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.


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