COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 28,000 people died of the flu in the 2018-2019 year, but this number decreased to 20,000 from 2019 to 2020. Doctors believe this can be credited to the social distancing and mask wearing the COVID-19 pandemic protocols called for.

Now doctors are concerned we may see a spike in flu related deaths this year as COVID-19 remains at the forefront of our year.

The cold and flu season starts around September or October and can go all the way until March. Piedmont Sports and Family medicine physician Doctor Siraj Abdullah shared things like practicing good hygiene, eating your vegetables, taking vitamins, exercising and getting enough sleep can all help you build your immune system to guard against cold and flu.

However, Dr. Abdullah said the best protection comes from the flu shot.

“Preventative wise though, like I said the flu vaccination is very, very important,” said Dr. Abdullah. “A lot of people think about flu it can last 5-10 days, but sometimes people go into the hospital with flu and they can have pneumonia. So it’s very important to try to prevent it.”

It’s also important to note that if you already had the flu you can get it again and should still get armed against the different strains of the virus.

“Even if you had the flu one time you can still get the flu a second time. There’s different strains of flu, it’s a virus just like there’s different strains of colds, different strains of COVID, there’s different strains of flu,” said Dr. Abdullah. “So you can have flu A and next time you can get flu B. So yes, I definitely would encourage if you’ve had the flu go ahead and get vaccinated after you’re asymptomatic or you don’t have any symptoms.”

In addition to this Dr. Abdullah said mask wearing and social distancing are still good ideas.

“Last year we saw that the cold and flu season really wasn’t that bad because a lot of people were wearing masks and so that is a benefit of wearing a mask is you prevent those common cold and flu type of things,” said Dr. Abdullah. “And ya know your cold symptoms are totally different than your flu symptoms, but the flu can be really serious and so if we can prevent that by wearing your mask, wear your mask. If we can prevent that by social distancing, social distance. Ya know that does not just apply to COVID.”

Finally Dr. Abdullah urges you if you have a cold or the flu and can work from home or stay at home you should do so as it will help stop the spread of these viruses.