Late starting flu season is expected to peak in February this year.
The Centers for Disease and Control (CDC) says just because the flu season is getting off to a lower start than normal, you should still get your flu shot this year.
Lynnette Brammer of the CDC said this year’s flu season in really off to a slow start compared to those seasons in recent history, commenting on the weekly flu count released by the agency last Friday.
Only one state, South Carolina, is showing a significant number of flu cases so far this year. Over the last three flu seasons, the doctor’s offices were busy with flu patients well before the Christmas holidays, the traditional start of the flu season in most years. The season peaked in late December in the most recent years and the experts are predicting this year’s season to hit its peak in February.
They are also predicting there is a 67 percent chance the flu will be mild this year, but still the agency is encouraging people, especially the elderly, to take the flu shot to try to prevent contracting the illness.
The scientists still are puzzled as to why the season started and peaked so early in the last few years. Some say it could be weather related, or it could be the particular strain of the virus in one season that spread more widely than the strains of other years.
The experts say a primary cause of the spread most years is holiday gatherings, where families and friends congregate together and pass the virus around. It is also a time where children become infected and upon returning to school after the holidays, continue to pass the virus around to their friends and infecting other families.
Brammer says the CDC has seen a mix of the flu viruses this season so far, adding in bad flu seasons, one particularly bad strain of the virus seems to dominate the cases. In the flu season last year, the flu vaccine did not work very well against the dominate strain that was causing most of the illnesses, and this year’s flu vaccine has been changed to combat that strain as well.
Bammer adds the delay of the start of this years flu season will give those procrastinators a chance to get vaccinated in time.