The 2018-19 Flu Season Update

Breaking News: Flu season is just getting started. (see below)

Flu activity increased slightly, but is still low in most of the US.
Flu activity increased slightly, but is still low in most of the US.

While flu season typically peaks in February, it is very important to understand that there are few things that are typical about the flu.

Since 1982, while we have been twice as likely to see a flu activity peak in February than other winter months, we have been just as likely to get that peak in December, January, or March. That makes it important to get your flu vaccine as soon as you can.

You really never know if it is going to be an early, average, or late flu season. That’s why it is best to not try and time your flu vaccine and to just get it as soon as you can.

Flu Season Facts

There will likely be some surprises this flu season – there always are – but there are some things that you can unfortunately count on.

Among these flu facts include that:

  • there have been over 1,600 pediatric flu deaths since the 2003-04 flu season, including 185 flu deaths last year
  • of the average 113 kids that die of the flu each year – most of them unvaccinated
  • antiviral flu medicines, such as Tamiflu, while recommended to treat high-risk people, including kids under 2 to 5 years of age, have very modest benefits at best (they don’t do all that much, are expensive, don’t taste good, and can have side effects, etc.)
  • a flu vaccine is the best way to decrease your child’s chances of getting the flu
  • FluMist, the nasal spray flu vaccine, is once again available for healthy kids who are at least 2-years-old

You can also count on the fact that even in a mild flu season, a lot of kids get sick with the flu.

What about reports that the flu shot won’t be effective?

Don’t believe them. The flu vaccine works and besides, it has many benefits beyond keeping you from getting the flu

This Year’s Flu Season

When does flu season start?

In general, flu season starts when you begin to see people around you with signs and symptoms of the flu, including fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and fatigue, etc. To be more accurate, you can also look at reports for flu activity in your area, especially the weekly reports from the CDC. Those flu reports can also help you determine when flu season ends.

As of early-December, the CDC reports that flu activity increased slightly. Does that mean that this year’s flu season is starting?

It depends on what you mean by “starting.” Do you mean we start seeing any cases (where we are now) or when we start seeing a lot of cases, on our way to a peak?

The CDC has also recently reported that:

  • one state, Massachusetts, is reporting widespread flu activity
  • 9 states, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nevada, New York, Oregon, and Vermont), are reporting regional flu activity
  • 18 states, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia, are reporting local flu activity
  • 22 states, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, are reporting sporadic flu activity
  • no states are still reporting no flu activity
  • there have already been 5 pediatric flu deaths this year

Some good news?

So far, influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 viruses are most common (that’s good, because H3N2 years are typically more severe), and the “majority of the influenza viruses collected from the United States during September 30, 2018 through December 1, 2018 were characterized antigenically and genetically as being similar to the cell-grown reference viruses representing the 2018–2019 Northern Hemisphere influenza vaccine viruses.”

Are you going to get your kids a flu vaccine this year?

“CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a  flu vaccine as soon as possible.”

CDC Influenza Situation Update

Flu season is just barely getting started and it is definitely not too late to get a flu vaccine.

For More Information on the 2018-19 Flu Season

Updated December 8, 2018

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