Ahead of a severe flu season, La Crosse area infection experts encourage flu shots

LA CROSSE (WKBT) — Cold and flu season is on the way, and experts predict this season will be even more severe than the last two.

In a recent survey, 49% of American adults said they do not plan on getting their flu shot. Doctors say they should reconsider, as this year is different.

“People really haven’t been infected as much with the flu in the past couple years, because the past two years have been so mild. So we don’t really have the antibodies circulating around like we would’ve in previous years,” said Dr. Erica Zell, a physician at Mayo Clinic in Onalaska.

The temperature is dropping, and viruses are spreading.

“Definitely an uptick in just viral illnesses in general—so not even necessarily COVID or influenza, but just random viruses,” Zell said.

Though doctors don’t predict infection to be any worse, it may spread quicker.

“It just centers around the fact that we just aren’t wearing masks anymore,” Zell said.

And as more and more people go mask-free, experts want you to be prepared.

“We know we have the right tools in front of us right now, is to make sure we are getting vaccinated. That way we don’t see a large number of cases like the southern hemisphere did,” said Megan Meller, an infection preventionist at Gundersen Health System in La Crosse.

Experts at both Mayo and Gundersen encourage vaccination, even though half of American adults don’t plan on getting one.

“Overall, we’ve always had a hard time across the U-S getting people to get their flu shot. You know, we’ve always aimed for 70% but at most it’s been 47%,” Meller said.

Doctors say there are benefits to getting the vaccine– especially this year.

“That helps protect yourself, also protects other people that are more vulnerable to getting the flu,” Zell said.

Both Zell and Meller say the best time to get your shot is now.

“October is one of the best times to get the flu shot, because we want to make sure people are vaccinated before the flu season begins,” Meller said.

As flu season approaches, Zell also recommends practicing good hand-washing, staying home when you are sick and considering masking in heavily populated areas.

Those efforts, on top of vaccination, can help reduce the spread.

Both Mayo and Gundersen’s flu shot clinics will open to the public in a week, on Oct. 17.

You can still get your shot with your physician before then– just schedule an appointment with your provider.