EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — It’s taken the back burner for a couple years now because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Health officials say the flu season is upon us, and they’re warning people to take measures seriously.

Like an unwelcome house guest, flu season could arrive early and be stronger than it has been in recent years. That’s why doctors are pushing for you to get a flu shot this fall.

“The flu season itself isn’t going to be different, what’s going to be different is the human response to the virus,” said Doctor David Ristedt, Family Physician, and the Regional Medical Director for the Guthrie Clinic.

Dr. Ristedt says it’s time to start thinking about flu shots again.

Over the last few years, many Americans have worn masks, practiced social distancing, and had limited public interaction. Dr. Ristedt says those measures have meant fewer flu cases.

Now that people are going back to school with less masking and less social distancing, Dr. Ristedt says it’s important to ensure protection against the flu.

“This could get pretty significant in terms of number of exposures, and if you’re not vaccinated, the illness you could get just simply because you’ll see it as a relatively new infection,” Dr. Ristedt explained.

Around the world, flu season has come earlier this year, and the same thing could happen in the United States.

That’s why Dr. Ristedt says you should schedule your flu shots now, as it takes about two weeks to get full protection from the vaccine.

Influenza vaccinations are known to reduce chances of infection and having severe illness, requiring hospitalization.

“The flu virus itself is responsible for a fair number of deaths every year… It protects you from getting sicker as a result of being exposed,” Dr. Ristedt continued.

In addition to getting the flu shot, Dr. Ristedt stresses practicing other preventative measures, such as vigorous hand washing, and masking up when feeling sick.

Dr. Ristedt says September and October are great times to get the shot.

It’s recommended for anyone as young as 6 months old and includes pregnant women. If you are looking to get that shot as soon as you can, many pharmacies are scheduling appointments now.