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Flu season could start early in the U.S. this year

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Posted at 5:23 PM, Aug 26, 2019

INDIANAPOLIS — Doctors say it's never too early to get the flu shot. The protection won't wear off before the end of flu season, and most pharmacies like CVS are already offering it.

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate — you can always generate a pretty good debate with that question.

One thing you can't debate, however, is that flu season is soon upon us.

The IU Health Special Pathogens program manager says flu season actually began two months ahead of schedule in Australia and New Zealand, which are typical indicators for how America will be affected.

"So they hadn't even vaccinated. And it hit hard, and it hit fast," Mary Kay Foster, IU Health Special Pathogens program manager, said. "And really impacted those that are most at risk. For people over 65 and kids under the age of five, and those with other health issues."

Pregnant women are also at high risk of getting the flu. They can develop some of the most critical and life-threatening side effects.

Doctors spent a lot of time examining what happened in Australia to see what type of viruses are circulating to make the best-educated guess here in the US.

Especially after last year's flu season, which was the longest we've had in a decade.

"It started off just after the holiday time, which is typical and it kind of peaked and then it went down a little bit and then it really surged again," Foster said. "What was interesting about that is there really was two different viruses that came through that."

It was something we hadn't seen before.

And because they've produced a new vaccine this year, they don't yet know how effective it will be.

"Make your appointments. Get it early," Foster said. "Don't be caught like Australia was with not having the vaccine ready to go or getting it out there or getting a shot soon enough. As soon as it becomes available, please go get your vaccine."

Symptoms for the flu include fever, aches, chills, muscle pain, or joint pain.

County Health Departments typically schedule special flu shot clinics in October.