GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — West Michigan doctors are bracing for an expected increase in flu cases this season.

The influenza season is coming to an end in Australia and the country has seen one of its highest number of cases in many years.

Dr. Andrew Jameson, the medical director for infection control with Trinity Health St. Mary’s, said the data is an indicator of what could happen in the U.S.

“In 2021 season (the Australian government flu network) peaked in mid-May, they had 598 total cases and no deaths. So far in the 2022 season — so that’s year to date from January until now — they peaked again pretty early, so mid-May to June, but then they had 224,000 cases, 300 deaths and 1,800 admissions to the hospital,” Jameson said.   

Doctors say the good news is the flu shot appears to be more effective against the circulating strains of the virus this year, which could help keep cases more manageable.

In Australia, like in the U.S., flu cases were lower during the pandemic.

“All those things that we were doing previously, we’re just not doing anymore because we’re not as worried about COVID … those masks, I know people hated them, I get it, but they did a lot of good to prevent respiratory illness,” Jameson said.

The lower case numbers mean many people have not had the flu in years or never got a flu shot. That is especially concerning for seniors and young children.

“We have kids that are 1-year-olds, 2-year-olds, some even 3-year-olds who have never been exposed to influenza. Those are the kids who we worry about the most,” Jameson said.   

The medical director of the Kent County Health Department, Dr. Nirali Bora, is hopeful more people will get vaccinated.

“I think it helps us recognize that we need to be vigilant this year. We need to be paying attention to what’s happening in our families, in our communities,” Bora said.

The updated COVID-19 booster that was recently released can be given at the same time as the flu shot.

“That makes it really convenient so that when people go in for one they can get both at the same time. Often people do separate arms so that one arm isn’t more sore but yeah that makes it very convenient to get done with your protection for the whole season,” Bora said.