This year's flu season expected to be a doozy. Here's where to get flu and COVID shots

This year's flu season is gearing up to be the most severe in years as cases already are on the rise in the U.S.

Nearly 1,000 new cases were confirmed nationwide at the end of September by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That number will likely increase.

Health experts like Wooster Community Hospital's Dr. Efewongbe Oleghe are using Australia's recent influenza season to forecast the future in the states.

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"This prediction is a projection, so a lot is based on retrospection," said Oleghe, an internal medicine doctor. "It is looking like some are having a very severe season, so we can probably expect one too."

The Australian Department of Health and Aged Care reports a total of 224,565 flu cases this year with 305 flu-related deaths and 1,784 hospitalizations since April.

Predicting the future

As with any forecast, Oleghe said nothing is guaranteed.

The coronavirus pandemic dampened seasonal viral infections like influenza because more people were masking and socially distancing, she said. But with fewer masks and distancing, this season could see higher numbers of flu cases.

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"They were doing these things more often, so it prevented the flu from spreading as much," she said.

The best way to prevent catching a nasty case of the flu is to get vaccinated, Oleghe recommends.

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While she and other health experts won't know the exact effectiveness of the shot, she said, it is better to have some protection than none at all.

"Think of an army getting ready to fight," Oledghe said. "You don't want your army unprepared when it faces the virus."

The vaccine trains the body's internal army, the immune system, to recognize and take on the flu, she said. Even if the vaccine is different from the flu, a portion of those soldiers will recognize the invading virus.

These vaccines focus on the two most common flu viruses found in humans: influenza A and influenza B.

According to the CDC, influenza A is the most prominent strain this year so far.

What if I get sick with the flu?

If someone is sick with the flu or suspects they have the flu, Oleghe recommends they wear a mask, stay at home and wash their hands often.

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Sanitizing surfaces, covering up when coughing or sneezing and washing hands are ways to prevent the spread of the illness, she said.

"These are all things doctors have said for years, even before the pandemic," Oleghe said. "It's not required, but it is encouraged."

Pandemic meets Influenza

Drawing a COVID-19 vaccine draw from a vial.
Drawing a COVID-19 vaccine draw from a vial.

COVID-19 is still here, but infection rates and hospitalizations have fallen since August, according to the CDC.

But that doesn't mean serious infections won't happen. Deaths remain low with the elderly. Those with pre-existing conditions face a greater risk.

Oleghe encourages everyone to receive COVID-19 shots and boosters as says those who have not been vaccinated are at a higher risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death.

As the months turn cold, viral infections like influenza and COVID usually trend up, she said, meaning COVID cases may begin to rise.

"It is the likely trend based on previous data," she said.

Where can I get flu and COVID shots?

Oleghe and the CDC agree that it is safe to get COVID-19 and influenza jabs at the same time.

While the side effects that include flu-like symptoms can be rough, she said, it is safe for most people.

"I do recommend to my patients that, if it's convenient, to get (the shots) at different appointments," Oleghe said. "That way I can pinpoint any side effects or adverse reactions to a specific vaccine."

But if people want the flu shot, now is the time.

"The best time to get the flu shot is late September and October," she said. "If you get it too early, your immunity might wane during the peak, but too late and you may not have the immunity for that peak."

Walk-in Wayne County clinics

  • Influenza shots: NowClinic at Health Point at 3727 Friendsville Rd. Suite 6 is open Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

  • Influenza shots: Wooster Community Pharmacy at 1761 Beall Ave. is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

  • The Wayne County Health Department at 203 South Walnut St.has walk-in clinics for flu vaccines and COVID-19 vaccines and boosters Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.  People can call 330-264-9590 to make an appointment.

  • COVID-19 shots and boosters: Aultman Orrville Dunlap Family Physicians at 830 S Main St. is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Patients can call 330-684-2015 to schedule an appointment.

  • Walmart pharmacies, CVS locations and Walgreens offer both flu and COVID jabs.

  • To find the nearest influenza and COVID-19 vaccination sites visit vaccines.gov.

Walk-in Holmes County clinics

  • Pomerene Hospital at 3169 state Route 39 is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Patients can call 330-893-0793 to schedule vaccination appointments.

  • Walmart pharmacies, CVS locations and Walgreens offer both flu and COVID jabs.

  • To find the nearest influenza and COVID-19 vaccination sites visit vaccines.gov.

Walk-in Ashland County clinics

  • University Hospitals Samaritan is offering flu vaccinations. Patients can call 888-918-5440 to schedule an appointment.

  • Walmart pharmacies, CVS locations and Walgreens offer both flu and COVID jabs.

  • To find the nearest influenza and COVID-19 vaccination sites visit vaccines.gov.

This article originally appeared on The Daily Record: Severe flu season expected: Where to get shots in Wooster, Ashland