Health officials, doctors urging people to get flu shot now

PHOENIX (KSAZ) -- Last season's flu virus was one of the deadliest. In Arizona alone, figures show 1,076 people died after getting the flu. That's nearly twice the seasonal average.

"Flu season last year was a total disaster," said Dr. Natasha Bhuyan, a family physician with One Medical Group.

It's hard to think of the flu season when the Valley is still experiencing triple-digit weather, but health officials say the time to get your flu shots is now. Now that the new vaccine is available, health officials are urging people to get their flu shots, hoping to avoid a deadly pandemic this time around.

Not everyone, however, will.

"I've never had the flu, I don't plan on getting the flu shot," said Lise Mills. "I just take precautions. Wash my hands, avoid crowds."

While doctors can't force you get vaccinated, but the number of kids who died from the flu last year might tug at your conscience .

"I think of the 179 kids who died from flu last year, and that just blows my mind," said Dr. Bhuyan. "That shouldn't happen in this day and age."

The flu season peaked a lot earlier than usual last year, and a lot of people waited to get the flu shot. That combo made flu season more widespread and deadly. Now that a new flu season is here, the message is to be prepared.

"We're constantly in and out of the country, interacting with lots of populations, so I think we're more exposed," said Mark Manausa, who gets flu shots.

"It feels too early because it's too hot outside," said Dr. Bhuyan. "It doesn't feel like flu season, but this is the right time to get the flu vaccine, to let the antibodies build up so you are protected when flu season is in flu swing."

Flu shots are about 60% effective in preventing someone from getting sick with the flu, but doctors say 60% is better than nothing, especially when it comes to kids. Of the 180 kids who died last year from the flu, 80% of them did not get a flu shot.

Flu vaccine information from the Arizona Department of Health Services

Flu information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Flu information from the Mayo Clinic