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Health experts predict flu season to 'make a comeback' this year

The CDC is recommending a "high dose" flu shot for older adults, 65 years old and up.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — As the weather starts to cool down, flu season is starting to heat up.

Medical experts in Hampton Roads say they’re expecting the flu to “make a comeback” this year, and they're already starting to see cases.

This year, doctors at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are also making a preferential recommendation for older adults to get a special “high dose” flu shot as healthcare experts predict cases to soar higher than in the last two years.

“I can’t tell you how bad it’s going to be, but I can definitely say it looks like we’re going to have some higher cases of flu than we’ve had in the past,” said Laurie Shaw, senior nurse manager at the Virginia Beach Department of Public Health. 

Shaw said her team is already tracking cases of the flu.

"The season is usually from like December to February but lately, it’s been starting in October and as early as September,” she said.

Flu cases hit low levels during the COVID-19 pandemic. But now that mask-wearing and social distancing aren’t as popular as it once was, health experts warn flu cases are likely to be higher than they were over the last two years.

Australia’s flu season usually runs from April to October and doctors there saw a surge in flu cases. That's something Velocity Urgent Care physician assistant Keisha Brown noted.

“Absolutely, we’re seeing flu, COVID, strep. We’re seeing all of it," Brown said. “I think it’s making a comeback. Of course, we look at reports like Australia in comparison to how bad the flu season is going to be here."

According to the CDC’s official website: new this year is a preferential recommendation for older adults to get a “high dose” flu shot. Brown called it a “ramped-up flu vaccine" for people over the age of 65.

Shaw said this vaccine isn’t new to the market, but it’s recommended for older people because they tend to get sicker and have weaker immune systems.

“It’s been around for a while," Shaw said. "It’s what we call a quadrivalent. It’s got four different components to it, and it's to give them a broader coverage and to keep them healthier longer.”

Healthcare workers in Hampton Roads say they’re also seeing a slight uptick in cases of COVID-19, alongside the flu.

“People are being exposed to both at the same time and surprisingly, they can test both at the same time," Brown said. "They’re somewhat forecasting a 'Twindemic'.”

Shaw said she’s also expecting COVID cases to climb this flu season.

“They’re [COVID cases] going to climb," Shaw said. "It’s wintertime, it’s colder, people are staying in house, you’ve got more social gatherings than we’ve had in the past couple of years.”

The best way to protect yourself from both is to get vaccinated against both the flu and COVID.

The Virginia Beach Department of Public Health is hosting a free COVID and flu vaccination clinic Saturday at Kingdom Cathedral from 10 a.m. to noon. Appointments are preferred but walk-ins are welcome. You can visit vaccines.gov to make an appointment.

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