Experts: Expect a tough flu season

The flu season is just around the corner and this year's prognosis doesn't look good. Experts are saying this season may be worse than last.

In the southern hemisphere flu season has been pretty bad and that's usually a pretty good predictor of what's going to happen here this winter.

“This year we’ve seen very bad disease in the southern hemisphere, very serious outbreaks in Australia and that usually portends a more serious flu season when flu season rolls around in the northern hemisphere,” said Dr. Mark Schleiss, the director of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Immunology at the University of Minnesota.

It all comes after mild seasons in recent years. In 2015 and 2016, 310,000 people were hospitalized for flu related illness. As high as that number may be, it’s far fewer than the 2014-2015 season when 710,000 people were sent to the hospital by the flu.

“One of the hallmarks of influenza is it’s so hyper-mutable and that’s to say it mutates constantly from year to year,” said Schleiss.

It’s that constant changing that makes an effective vaccination so hard. With evolving strains, vaccines can sometimes vary in effectiveness. But doctors say flu shots remain the best way to avoid the flu..

“Influenza is really an important cause of mortality throughout the world and that is really the major reason vaccination is so important,” said Schleiss.