WYNNEWOOD, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- With the temperatures dropping, health officials are warning of a potentially more severe flu season compared to past years.
"Each year, scientists look at the circulating strains in the Southern Hemisphere and try to predict what strains are going to be in the Northern Hemisphere," said Dr. Lawrence Livornese, Chairman of Medicine at Main Line Health. "Sometimes they get it right, other times not so much."
In the Southern Hemisphere, Australia is experiencing its worst flu season in at least five years, a possible foreshadowing of what's to come in the US. The flu season virtually disappeared in the last two years due to COVID shutdowns, masking and social distancing. But now, things are back to normal.
"I haven't had a flu vaccine in I don't know how long, so I'm going to say no, but say like, if cases do start rising, I might," said Monet Gregory of North Philadelphia.
Doctors are encouraging the flu shot to decrease your chances of severe disease and urging everyone to get the COVID-19 booster shot, which targets the omicron variant.
"We may see a milder COVID season this year than compared to last year but it's very possible a new mutation may appear and things may change in ways that we don't really expect right now," said Livornese.
At this time, about 68 million Americans remain completely unvaccinated for the coronavirus. Across the country, 30,000 patients are hospitalized due to COVID, with 3,200 people in the ICU. Health officials warn of a possible spike in cases as winter approaches and we move inside.
"I'm going to try to keep as much distance between me and strangers as possible," said Tay Nesmith of West Philadelphia. "I'm going to try to keep my mask on and an extra one in my bag."
Doctors highly recommend getting the flu shot between now and the end of October to be most protected. They say you can get both the flu shot and the COVID booster at the same time.