OPELIKA, Ala. (WRBL) – An early flu season strikes east Alabama. East Alabama Health is already experiencing hospitalizations. Pediatricians are seeing a sharp increase in sick kids, and schools like Valley High School are going remote for a few days this first week of October trying to control an influenza outbreak. 

Healthcare workers say there are several steps you can take to protect your family from serious infections. Wash your hands regularly. Stay home if you’re sick. Wear a mask in crowds, and get vaccinated as soon as you can. It takes your body two weeks to build up immunity.

“We are seeing an unusually early flu season this year. I would say a week and a half ago began having positive cases of influenza A, and now we have had a large increase in influenza A, pretty much across all age groups, schools, and daycares. I think the big thing to know this year is it was forecasted well before the flu season that this would be a vigorous year for flu so the best thing you can do to protect yourself is by getting a flu shot vaccine,” said Opelika Pediatrician Dr. Sara Smith T.

At East Alabama health, the good news is COVID-19 cases remain low, but flu is expected to climb. 

“We are seeing a little bit of that come into our organization, and we have already had two patients that had to be hospitalized with the flu,” said East Alabama Director of Infection Control, Brooke Bailey.

This year’s vaccine is expected to offer robust protection against severe illness.  Physicians say it’s especially important to protect those who are most vulnerable against serious influenza infection, like the elderly, the very young, and those with compromised immune systems. 

Alabama Health says it’s safe to get your COVID booster with the flu vaccine. As always speak with your physician about what’s best for you. 

“It is absolutely safe to get both vaccines at the same time and we encourage you to do that,” said Bailey.

The latest information available from the CDC regarding reports from 2019-2020 the flu vaccine was estimated to have prevented approximately 6,300 deaths. 

For more information on where to get a flu vaccine, you can visit: Alabama Public Health