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Mayo Clinic looks to upcoming flu season

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX 47) -- As the seasons slowly begin to change, a reminder that flu season is right around the corner.

With the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing, doctors are urging everyone to make sure that they are not only vaccinated against COVID-19 but also against the flu.

The good news is doctors are reporting last year was an amazing flu season, with very low numbers, attributing it to the COVID-19 safety precautions in place and high flu vaccination rates.

However, the bad news is because of how few people got the flu last year, more people are at risk this year from the lack of immunity to influenza strains.

syringe and box of influenza vaccine

"I think that last year, with everyone being masked for the majority of the time, that was the reason why influenza illnesses were reduced," Mayo Clinic Infectious Disease Dr. Priya Sampathkumar said.

So as we look ahead to the next flu season, health experts are urging everyone to get the flu vaccine especially those with underlying health conditions, the elderly, and children.

"I hear from a lot of people that say they got influenza from the flu vaccine," Sampathkumar said. "Most of the influenza vaccine in the U.S. is inactivated. Really, you cannot get influenza from vaccination. Sometimes you can get some side effects from the vaccine, a low grade fever, some muscle aches and pains that can feel like maybe you have influenza but it's nothing like the real illness."

Doctors say September is prime time to start getting vaccinated against influenza and even say it's safe to get the flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine at the same time.

person getting flu shot

"Most people, the vaccine protects you for somewhere around eight months, so well into the flu season," Sampathkumar said. "In the very elderly or the very immunosuppressed, that period of protection might be somewhat shorter at about six months. And that's why we say September will get you through about March or April."

Doctors say there are no supply issues and there is plenty of flu vaccines available. Everyone over the age of six months is eligible to get the vaccine.

"Most of the flu vaccines for children over the age of two actually have the same antigen dose as the adults because we found that there's no harm in giving them a higher antigen dose," Sampathkumar said. "And children's immune systems aren't as well developed as adults so they tend to not mount as much of a response"

So in addition to getting the flu shot, good hand hygiene, masking and social distancing will help reduce the spread of the flu this season.

Sarah Gannon

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