Doctors are already warning Americans: This year’s flu season could get bad

As the masks are coming off, the colds are coming on

MADISON, Wis.– Masking. Distancing. Handwashing. Could the secret to a nearly non-existent flu season really be that simple?

Doctors believe so, and they have the numbers to prove it. Last year, there were only 16 documented cases of the flu in all of Wisconsin. Nationally, the CDC says cases were their lowest in 15 years, down by 85%.

However, as people start to ditch their masks, this year’s numbers are already starting to rise. And local doctors warn: it’s only June.

“Most of these viruses are spread by droplets, so that’s why masks work,” explained SSM Health’s Dr. David Ottenbaker. “It’s a lesson learned. We’re always trying to define ‘the new normal.’ This could be part of it: wearing masks in certain situations.”

Ottenbaker clarifies he’s not suggesting people revert to wearing masks all the time, but rather, in places like a crowded elevator or an airplane, even if masks are eventually no longer required.

Still, like COVID, doctors say the best way to prevent getting or spreading the flu is to get vaccinated. Flu season usually picks up in October in Wisconsin, although southern states are already reporting cases of the virus.

Right now, doctors are unsure how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ this year’s flu season will be. Although people are less likely to wear masks than last year, they remain less likely to travel internationally, too, and that’s often how the virus spreads.

“We’re worried, though,” said Ottenbaker, in response to what this fall could bring. “We’re probably going to be in an environment where COVID won’t be completely gone.”