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Australia's record breaking flu season could indicate a bad flu season for the US

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58)-- Australia had a record-breaking flu season with one of the highest number of cases in its history. Those cases also started months early.

Health experts say Australia is often used to indicate what the United States flu season may look like, although the two don't always correlate. 

As of mid-October, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services has seen 22 hospitalizations and 3 deaths from the flu. That may seem like a small number, but it's already higher than average for this time of year. 

Flu cases were unusually high in Australia, with more than 298,000 confirmed cases, resulting in more than 600 deaths reported by its health department.

"If it happens in Australia, it could possibly affect the U.S., so everybody's got to be careful," said Mazen Seddick, Pharmacy Manager for Hayat Pharmacy Milwaukee.  

Flu cases in the United States are still low, but that number could climb with colder temperatures around the corner. Last year's flu season was one of the longest in U.S. history, and the year before was one of the deadliest.

Local pharmacists believe that's why many are already requesting the shot.

"We've just had a lot more people that are looking at it this year," said John Warzyn, Inventory Manager for Hayat Pharmacy.

"They heard that this season was going to be worse,” said Seddick. “We don't want what happened last year again."

Hayat Pharmacy has more than 15 locations in the greater Milwaukee area, and their biggest shop located on North Avenue has already gone through hundreds of vaccines.

"We’ve gone through probably 400 doses already," adds Warzyn.

Though it may seem like people in Milwaukee are being proactive, the Wisconsin DHS says so far only 12-percent of Wisconsinites have actually gotten the flu shot.

Experts say now is the time.

"As soon as possible,” said Seddick. “That way your body gets some time to make that vaccine work, so the earlier the better.”

The Centers for Disease Control says last year only 45-percent of adults and 63-percent of children got the flu shot.

Doctors say young children and older adults are the most prone to having complications from the flu. Australia's numbers show flu activity was highest in kids aged five and under, and older adults had the highest number of deaths.

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