Australia has had an early and severe flu season this year — and often the United States sees a similar pattern to Australia when flu season reaches us, says Dr. Kerry Frommer Fierstein, a pediatrician with Allied Physicians Group Pediatric Health Associates in Plainview and chief executive officer of Allied Physicians Group. “Australia gets their flu before we do,” Fierstein says.
For that reason — and others — families should be sure to be vaccinated as early as possible this year, Fierstein says. Flu season in the United States lasts from October to April. That means getting the vaccine this month if possible, and certainly by Thanksgiving and the December holidays, when people are exposed to crowds, she says. The strain of the flu that’s causing hospitalizations and even deaths in Australia is one of the four strains covered in this year’s flu vaccine, Fierstein says.
This year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is once again recommending that children 6 months and older be vaccinated. And it’s putting the kibosh on the nasal vaccine — in which the virus was sprayed into kids’ noses, avoiding the need for a needle stick — because it hasn’t been effective enough in preventing the illness. “I can’t imagine there’s anybody who’s offering it,” Fierstein says.
Pregnant women as well as family members of babies younger than 6 months especially need to be vaccinated to protect the fetus and babies who can’t get the vaccine themselves, Fierstein says.
While the vaccine may not prevent 100 percent of flu cases, it may lead to a milder case if one contracts the flu. “It’s your best chance,” Fierstein says. “The best thing you can do to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated.”