Flu season 2021: What to know

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As temperatures cool and students return to classrooms amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, flu season has arrived once again.

Officials are urging Americans to get their shots and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Dir. Rochelle Walensky said last week that while she knows people are “tired of talking about vaccines,” it is still “doubly important this year” to get a shot.

Flu cases have dropped to historically low levels during the pandemic, with coronavirus restrictions blocking other respiratory viruses. 

However, with schools and businesses reopened, there is no telling how bad a flu season the U.S. can expect this winter and officials are worried because a different respiratory virus – RSV – came back last summer.

Annual flu vaccinations are recommended for just about everybody, starting with six-month-old babies. 

FILE – In this Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020, file photo, a patient receives an influenza vaccine in Mesquite, Texas. Amid all the focus on COVID-19 vaccinations, U.S. health experts have another plea: Don’t skip your flu shot.  With U.S. schools and businesses reopened, international travel resuming and far less masking this fall, flu is likely to make a comeback. 
(AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

Influenza is most dangerous for adults over age 65, children under age five, people with chronic health problems and pregnant people.

The CDC encourages people to get their vaccines by the end of October. 

Last fall, about as many Americans overall got their flu vaccination as they did prior to the pandemic: about half of the eligible population.

The CDC expects vaccine makers to deliver 188 million to 200 million doses of flu vaccine, which most Americans with health insurance can get without a co-pay. A record nearly 194 million doses were distributed last winter.

Options include regulars shots and a nasal spray and all offer protection against four different flu strains that experts predict are the most likely to spread this year.

Officials have also urged older adults and those with chronic illnesses to inquire about getting a vaccine against a type of pneumonia that is a frequent complication.

In addition, the CDC says it is also OK to get a flu vaccine and a GOVID-19 vaccine at the same time.

Flu, a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses, infects the nose, throat and lungs. 

The CDC notes that while the flu can cause mild to severe illness, it can sometimes lead to death.

About 8% of the U.S. population gets sick from the flu each season, the CDC says, with a range between 3% and 11% depending on the season.

While there are influenza antiviral drugs that can be used to treat the flu, the agency says the drugs are not a substitute for the vaccine: the best way to help prevent seasonal flu and its potentially serious complications.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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