As flu season approaches, Anchorage physician recommends getting vaccinated to not further strain hospitals

Flu shots sign.
Flu shots sign.
Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 4:39 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Fall is quickly approaching in Alaska, which means flu season is also right around the corner.

“September, October (and) November is when flu season starts typically, and flu shots start right around September as well,” said Dr. Taro Satake, a family physician at Providence Primary Care.

Satake said he expects this upcoming flu season to be worse than the last one, where the U.S. still saw about 400,000 flu hospitalizations and 22,000 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He said that was considered a “low year” and says that’s because more people were masking and social distancing last year.

“There are less mitigation steps in place than last year, so we are concerned about that,” Satake said. “There’s no mask mandates in place in the city, and there’s no limitations in capacity in restaurants and in stores.”

With recent record high COVID-19 hospitalizations across Alaska, the concern for many health officials is that the upward trend in those cases combined with a bad flu season could put further strain on hospitals and staff who work on the front lines.

“The fear is that we will potentially have to ration care like what’s happening in Idaho right now, so this is actually happening in our country at this time — and that is a huge concern for us and something we have to try and prevent,” Satake said.

Satake, along with other health officials, says the No. 1 way to prevent getting sick and especially being hospitalized for COVID-19 and the flu is to be vaccinated against both viruses.

“We’re hoping that people will get vaccinated for flu (and) always minimize the impact that it has on hospitalizations and deaths and just morbidity for our community,” said Louisa Castrodale, an Alaska Public Health epidemiologist.

Satake recommends getting the flu vaccine as soon as possible. According to the CDC, flu activity peaks between December and February. The FDA says nine different types of flu vaccines will be available this season. On Thursday, Moderna announced it’s developing a single vaccine that includes both a booster shot against COVID-19 along with a flu shot.

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