Companies and pharmacies are already reminding people that it’s time to get a flu shot, and the push may be more warranted this year.
A particularly bad flu season was reported in Australia, which has served as a rough measuring stick for the flu season that follows in the Northern Hemisphere.
From Jan. 1 to Aug. 19, 2016, the Australian health department reported 37,266 total cases of influenza to the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System. This August alone, New South Wales reported 47,863 cases of the flu – more than 3.5 times the number of cases (13,602) the most populous Australian state reported in August of 2016, according to NSW Government Health.
“In general, we get in our season what the Southern Hemisphere got in the season immediately preceding us,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN.
But Fauci also said just because the flu hit Australia hard does not absolutely mean the same will happen in the United States, according to the American Council on Science and Health.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it isn’t possible to accurately predict flu activity months or even weeks in advance in multiple locations.
But the CDC does partner with health departments and other groups on a U.S. influenza surveillance system designed to paint a broad picture of flu activity in the country. It also works with external research teams in an effort to provide “a more-timely and forward-looking tool that health officials can use to target medical interventions, inform earlier public health actions, and allocate resources for communications, disease prevention and control.”
Here’s some general information on the flu, and some information specific to the upcoming flu season in the United States.
What is influenza and its symptoms?
Flu viruses infect the lungs, nose and throat, and though the effects can be mild for some people, they can also be deadly.
Common symptoms include fevers, sore throats, body and head aches, chills and fatigue.
When is flu season?
Flu season varies, but generally begins in the United States around October and runs through the following spring.
The months when flu season has peaked the most in the U.S. over the past 34 years are February (14 seasons), December (7), March (6) and January (5).
Need to know for the 2017-18 flu season.
The nasal spray flu vaccine (live attenuated influenza vaccine) should not be used for the 2017-18 season. The CDC recommends the flu shot (inactivated influenza vaccine) or the recombinant influenza vaccine for the upcoming season.
The CDC maintains a list of its latest vaccination recommendations.
How do people get the flu?
Influenza is contagious. It is believed that droplets created when someone with the flu coughs, sneezes or talks spread to the mouths or noses of people close by, according to the CDC.
It is possible but less likely to get the flu from touching something that has the virus on it and then touching your eyes, mouth or nose.
Who is mostly at risk?
Everyone is susceptible, even people in good health. But certain people – including those over 65 years of age and people of any age with existing illnesses or certain health conditions, however, are considered at higher risk of serious complications from the flu, per the CDC.
What can I do to prevent the flu?
The CDC recommends getting a flu vaccination each year.
It also recommends employing common sense – staying away from people who may be sick, covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing and washing hands frequently.