Bad Australian flu season could spell trouble in U.S.

Health officials in the United States are bracing for a tough flu season.

Australia just experienced one of its worst flu seasons on record, and experts are warning this could mean an early and rough flu season for the United States.

Flu season in Australia usually spans from June to September and peaks in August. Officials say it started early this year, however, and the number of confirmed cases exceeded 2017, which was a historically bad year on both sides of the globe.

Health experts in the U.S. examine Australia’s flu season as somewhat of a template for what we may experience here.

“We could be in for a busy fall and winter,” said Erica L. Bailen, M.D., pediatrician with Norton Children’s Medical Group – Lakeview. “That’s why it’s extremely important to make sure you and your child are vaccinated.”

The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu shot. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, all children 6 months and older should receive the vaccine. If your child is between 6 months and 8 years old and has not had a flu shot before, two doses four weeks apart are recommended for the best immune response. Previously vaccinated children may need only one dose.

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Even though the shot is more effective some years than others, Dr. Bailen recommends getting the vaccine every year.

“What I typically share with patients is that the vaccine still affords protection, even if it doesn’t prevent flu entirely,” she said. “Not all strains may be covered, but it can minimize the severity and the length of the symptoms.”

Flu symptoms

If your child displays the following symptoms, Dr. Bailen recommends scheduling a visit with a pediatrician:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Vomiting and diarrhea