Flu season expected to be more severe this year, public health officials say

CDC reports show influenza-like illnesses already rising across Texas.
Published: Nov. 1, 2022 at 5:32 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - With fall in full swing, and winter on the horizon, we’ve officially entered flu season; and while it typically peaks in February, Texas is already experiencing high numbers of influenza-like illness.

Public health officials warn this year could be especially bad, given previous years of COVID-19, masking, limited travel, and reduced person-to-person contact.

“This season, things have changed dramatically,” Dr. Ari Rao, MD, the SVP of Pathology and Lab Medicine at Baylor Scott & White, said. “Everybody is back at school, hardly anyone wears masks except in some countries and some states, and travel has rebounded for the most part. So the incidence of flu has been building up slowly through the past three weeks.”

According to reports obtained by the CDC, red areas of this map show influenza-like illnesses are already high in Texas, and local doctors say this is just the beginning.

“What we are afraid of, and we have to see the numbers, is a triple threat,” Dr. Rao told KWTX. What she’s referring to is COVID-19, RSV, and the flu.

With the rise in cases of these three illnesses, emergency room wait times are likely go up, too.

“Waiting room times in both of the local ERs are fairly long already for this season,” Dr. Jonathan Walker, MD, Emergency Medicine at Ascension Province, said. “And you would certainly be waiting longer than if you went to another more expedient venue.”

Both Rao and Walker say the best way to avoid getting sick is getting the flu vaccine.

“I highly recommend people getting their vaccines,” Walker said. “It’s a best guess based on the variants we know are high, but it’s the best protection you have and it does reduce the severity of the symptoms.”

Dr. Rao mimicked his sentiments. “If people get vaccinated, children get vaccinated, the belief is that the vaccines will prevent severe disease, hospitalizations, death, etc.,” she said.

The CDC recommends getting vaccinated in September, October or November to be the most protected against getting the flu, so you still have time.