HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Flu season is unfortunately right around the corner and while health care officials said we had a very mild season last year, it may not fare the same this time around.
"Last year, we did not have a flu season. So, this year, I would expect a more intense flu season if it arrives," said Dr. Pedro Piedra, a professor of molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor College.
Piedra said last year, people were masking up, and there were other interventions in place to prevent the spread of COVID and other viruses.
With those measures now relaxed, that could mean we'll see a more intense flu season.
"I'm expecting, when influenza season arrives, it will arrive with significant intensity," said Piedra.
While he can't say for sure when flu season will arrive, Piedra does think it will come early, possibly as early as November for the Houston area.
He recommends residents get vaccinated soon and make sure their kids get their shots.
"Last year, the schools were partially open. But this year, they're fully open and masking is not mandated," he said. "So, we're going to see a lot of transmission."
Dr. David Persse, the health authorities for Houston's Health Department, offered these several ways people can stay protected.
The main tips are to make sure you're vaccinated and that you're cleaning commonly-touched surfaces.
"Flu spreads through the air pretty well. Remember, the doors and the keyboards and those things. We expected [that] with the coronavirus, but we didn't really find it," Persse said. "We expected it because that's what we found with the flu. So now that we're talking about flu again, let's remember that's where we need to clean those commonly-touched surfaces, that's a really important way of slowing down the propagation of the flu across our community."
What about the symptoms? Can you tell the flu apart from COVID?
"The flu is fairly reliable in its symptoms. You're going to get a high fever. You're going to get pretty severe body aches. You may get some lung problems, lung complications, so the flu is fairly predictable. Coronavirus we've seen is highly unpredictable. It can look just like the flu or a whole lot different," he said.
Persse said if you aren't sure if you have COVID or the flu, go ahead and get a COVID test.
Most people only need one dose of the flu vaccine. Piedra said in that case, your vaccine is fully effective after two weeks.