New York City is well into flu season, and health experts are concerned that it’s shaping up to be a nasty one – the federal Centers for Disease Control are already reporting high levels of flu activity in the city, and Australia has just come out of a difficult flu season.
“We are all concerned that this will be a big flu year,” said Dr. Dana Mazo, infectious disease specialist at NYU Langone Hospital—Brooklyn. “Australia over this past summer, their winter, had their worst flu season in the past five years. We typically follow the same trends as the southern hemisphere. We’re also concerned because we haven’t had that much flu in two to three years, and so we’re worried that this could be a setup for a bad flu year.”
While the flu often results in a pretty mild illness with symptoms like a fever, cough, and sore throat, the flu can make people very sick and is fatal in some cases – every year, around 2,0000 New Yorkers die from the seasonal flu and pneumonia caused by the flu, according to the New York City Department of Health.
Flu season is here earlier than usual. According to our latest report, flu cases are already high in NYC. New Yorkers: Don’t put off getting your flu shot! Everyone 6 months and older should get the flu vaccine.
— nychealthy (@nycHealthy) November 10, 2022
Scientists work year-round to monitor flu trends and develop vaccines appropriate for the most common strains. The 2022-2023 flu vaccine offered in the United States protects against two types of influenza A virus and two types of influenza B virus. Flu season tends to peak sometime between December and February, so timing vaccinations so that you get the best protection is crucial.
“Now is a good time [to get the flu vaccine],” Mazo said. “We are already starting to see some flu cases. The peak is usually from January to February, but we’re already starting to see cases. I would recommend for people to get vaccinated before December 1st.”
As most people have let their guard down against COVID-19, this flu season may also compound a rise in COVID-19 cases. Staying up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccinations, specifically receiving the new bivalent booster that protects against Omicron, gives the best protection against COVID-19. Most people are able to get the flu and COVID-19 vaccines during the same appointment.
“You can definitely get both vaccines at the same time,” said Dr. Mazo. “Some people would rather do separate appointments if they’re concerned about symptoms, but that’s really up to you. The important thing is that you get both vaccines.”
On top of getting vaccinated, the state Department of Health encourages New Yorkers to take some additional measures to avoid contracting and spreading the flu and COVID — including regular hand-washing, carrying and using hand sanitizer, and wearing a mask while indoors if symptomatic. Timing for vaccinations is everything, Mazo added — it’s better to get the shot early, before cases start to pick up later in the season.
“The flu vaccine has protected New Yorkers for decades,” said NYC Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan in a statement last month. “It can keep you from getting sick and out of the emergency room. This is the perfect time of year to pair it with a COVID-19 booster shot. I got both at the same time, and I’m encouraging my patients and all of you to do the same.”
Use the NYC Vaccine Finder to find and schedule your flu and COVID shots, and keep an eye out for pop-up vaccination sites: The NYC DOH is hosting its next pop-up on Sunday, Nov. 13, from 10am-2pm at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, 526 59th St. between 5th and 6th avenues in Sunset Park.