Flu season is upon us. Here's what you need to know

Every year, we are urged to get vaccinated against the flu, but this year it is more urgent than ever.

Pre-filled M-001 universal flu vaccine syringes  (photo credit: BIONDVAX)
Pre-filled M-001 universal flu vaccine syringes
(photo credit: BIONDVAX)

Flu season arrived early in the United States, and according to data published this weekend by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of hospitalizations from the illness is higher than ever.

The CDC estimates that there have been at least 880,000 flu patients, nearly 7,000 hospitalizations and 360 flu deaths in the US this season alone. This week, the first death of a child from the disease was also reported.

A flu shot is still the best way to protect against the disease, experts say, and the best time to do it is right now.

As in previous years, the CDC recommended that people get a flu shot before the end of October. But flu vaccination rates are lower than usual for this time of year, and the reason for this is apparently the coronavirus vaccines given to many millions in the past two years.

The gap in immunity against the flu, as defined by the experts, is probably due to the increase in RSV cases, and the fact that vaccinated people can still get sick - but the purpose of the vaccine is to protect against the most serious outcomes and complications.

An image of the virus that causes COVID-19, created by the CDC (credit: Courtesy)An image of the virus that causes COVID-19, created by the CDC (credit: Courtesy)

How effective is the vaccine?

The CDC, in a statement, explained that although the flu vaccine is "not perfect," it does protect one from the more serious outcomes, such as hospitalizations and even death.

As a result, they recommend getting all children over six months old vaccinated. Although the concern about the flu is always justified, this year the worry is higher than in previous years because the flu has not been as prevalent the past few years amid the coronavirus pandemic, meaning everyone is entering this coming flu season with less immunity and protection due to prior infection.

People at risk of complications from respiratory diseases, including the elderly and people with weak immune systems, should see a doctor as soon as they start to notice any symptoms, as there are treatments for coronavirus and the flu that offer additional protection against complications of the diseases, the experts of the CDC added.

Stay safe and stay healthy!