CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – When it comes to predicting what flu season will look like in the United States researchers have long looked to the southern hemisphere, which experiences its flu season first. They say there is a lot to be learned this year as Australia is nearing the end of its worst flu season in at least five years.

That is just one of the reasons health leaders are encouraging people to get the flu shot. Flu season starts as early as October. West Virginia Health Right is offering free flu shots now.

“As soon as it is offered or I see signs that trigger me to go and do it I’m going to do it,” said Michael Johnston. He is one of many people who say they’ll get the flu vaccine as soon as they can this year.

“I started again last year I guess in part because of the pandemic,” said Hunter Walker. He said he has elderly grandparents and he wants to protect them also. “I’ve had the flu before and it is not fun.”

Doctors say the United States could see more cases of the flu than in the past few years because fewer people are wearing masks and social distancing and people are back to traveling like they did before the pandemic.

“We’ve had a really good turn out as of late, people coming in getting their COVID booster along with their flu shot,” said Isaiah Merritt, a Registered Nurse at Health Right.

The Centers for Disease control says the season peaks around February.