AUSTIN (KXAN) — Just a few weeks after classes began, the Austin Independent School District reports five students have come down with the flu at one school. Experts predict this flu season could hit hard — and it has to do with what’s happening now in Australia.
Doctors at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center say that country has had more than twice the number of flu cases compared to last year, as well as double the number of deaths. Dr. Albert Gros says flu season here often mimics that of the southern hemisphere. Already doctors have seen a number of flu cases come into the emergency room in Austin.
“It tends to circulate around the world,” Gros said. “The good news is that it hasn’t mutated — it does seem to be responding to the vaccines that we’ve developed for it this year, so we’re optimistic that we’ll at least get some good protection for it this year.”
Dr. Sam Deliberato at Baylor Scott & White says this is the earliest he’s seen flu. “Usually the flu season kicks in from the end of October to May, where 75 percent of peak season is in January.”
The Centers for Disease Control recommends anyone over 6 months old should get a flu shot before flu season begins, although those with allergies to the vaccine should not. AISD will offer free flu shots to elementary and middle school students Oct. 10. People can also look up where to get a vaccine using the CDC’s Vaccine Finder.
Last year the CDC said flu activity was higher than last year and considerably more widespread within each state. According to the CDC, flu cases peak between December and March, sometimes lasting until May.