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It’s that time of year again: flu season.

With COVID-19 precautious, such as wearing masks, loosening and more people traveling and gathering, experts say we are gearing up for a busy flu season.

Dr. John Greene, Chair, Infectious Diseases Program

Dr. John Greene, chair, Infectious Diseases Program

“We are worried about the ‘tridemic’ with COVID-19, flu and RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus,” said Dr. John Greene, chair of the Infectious Diseases Program at Moffitt Cancer Center. “RSV is already full steam ahead hitting children and elderly harder than most years, and we are seeing the flu hitting early up North and likely heading to Florida. As the air cools, more people are indoors with others for prolonged periods and mask use is relaxed as COVID-19 wanes.”

Greene also says COVID-19 is continuing to mutate, leading experts to predict the emergence of a new variant this winter.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report,” the country is already seeing early increases of seasonal flu activity. The Southeast and South Central areas of the nation are reporting the highest levels of activity. For the week ending on Oct. 14, 3% of all visits to health care providers were for respiratory illnesses, which is above the national baseline of 2.5%. More than 1,500 patients were admitted to hospitals with flu over the week, and 8.8% of deaths were attributed to respiratory illness, which is well above the epidemic threshold of 5.8%.

The annual Walgreens Flu Index shows that to date, overall flu activity is more than 10 times higher compared to the 2021-22 flu season and has more than doubled over the past two weeks. Flu activity during the week of Oct. 10 was the highest in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi.

The CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot, ideally by the end of October. It is the best way to protect against the flu and can help prevent serious outcomes in people who are vaccinated but still get sick with the flu. Both the flu shot and the COVID-19 booster can be given at the same time.

There are different types of flu shots for different groups of people:

  • Those over 65 should get the Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent vaccine. It contains four times the antigen, which gives older people a better immune response and therefore protection against the flu.
  • Cancer patients should make sure they get the flu vaccine that is made from the dead flu virus — not the nasal spray. However, there are some cancer patients with weakened immune systems who may not get the full benefit of flu vaccination, such as patients receiving anti-B cell immunotherapy or intensive chemotherapy like induction or consolation chemotherapy for acute leukemia.
  • Flu shots are recommended for pregnant women and people with certain chronic health conditions.
  • If you have an allergy to eggs, have ever had Guillain-Barre Syndrome or are not feeling well, talk to your doctor before getting the flu shot.