Flu season is here, and although last year cases of the flu were at an all-time low, officials are not expecting that trend to carry through this year.
The anticipated demand for the flu shot this year is much lower than health officials would like. In fact, community turnout for the vaccine was so low last year, the Huntsville Hospital Fever & Flu clinic won't be offering the flu shot this year.
Over in Marshall County, they experienced this same lack of demand during their yearly drive-thru flu shot clinic on Wednesday.
"This year we only did 175 doses, which is way less than our normal that we do," says Sara Shelton, the clinic supervisor at the Marshall County Health Department.
Shelton says this year's flu shot clinic had the lowest turnout she's seen since she's been with the health department.
"In the last 7 years it's the lowest that I remember," says Shelton.
Health officials like Shelton are concerned by the low vaccination rate, as they are already starting to see flu cases.
"We're already seeing cases of it this year, I don't know to what level that will rise," says Dr. Roger Smalligan with UAB Huntsville Regional Medical Campus.
"I think we're a little worried about the flu season given the lack of flu this year, is it going to be worse? I think that's possible," says Jeff Samz, the CEO of Huntsville Hospital.
But there is a way to reduce the spread.
Dr. Ali Hassoun with Huntsville Hospital says, "the flu vaccine has been, over the years, the best preventive method to reduce cases of flu."
Dr. Hassoun says there's only so much the hospital can do to prepare for a flu outbreak.
"Even if we're prepared it's going to be hard, it's going to be tough, and we really want the community to help us to reduce hospitals getting full," says Dr. Hassoun.
Although you can't get the flu shot at the Fever & Flu clinic, most local pharmacies like Walgreens, CVC and Publix have the shot.
Dr. Hassoun says now is the time to get vaccinated as it takes about 3 to 4 weeks to become effective, and peak flu season starts mid November.