It’s flu season again: How bad could the virus be this fall in the Columbus area?

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It’s that time of year again — influenza season is back, and it’s unclear yet just how widespread the virus could be, though doctors are encouraging Ohioans to get ahead of it.

October marks the official start of flu season, and when the state starts tracking the illness and its impact. But central Ohioans don’t need to wait to get protected from the virus, said Dr. Mysheika Roberts, commissioner of Columbus Public Health.

It takes a few weeks for the flu shot to protect people, meaning now is the perfect time to get it, she said.

Read More:Should you get the new COVID booster? Here’s what OhioHealth’s Dr. Joe Gastaldo says

“I would definitely encourage people to get the flu shot before the end of October. There’s a lot of people who say ‘flu before boo,'” Roberts said, referring to Halloween at the end of the month. “Everyone who wants to avoid getting the flu should get it.”

Although now is a good time to get the flu shot, Roberts said it’s never too late to get vaccinated for it, as the shot can still help stave off harsher symptoms later in the season.

The flu can cause a cough, sore throat, fatigue headaches and body aches and fever, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can also spur more serious complications, such as pneumonia and during the 2021 to 2022 season killed an estimated 5,000 Americans.

The severity of the flu season will depend in part on just how many Ohioans get vaccinated this year, said Dr. Mahdee Sobhanie, an infectious disease specialist at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center.