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4 min read

When is flu season in The United States?

Each year, the flu virus grips the nation, prompting discussions about the importance of vaccination. 

When Does Flu Season Start?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 2010 and 2020, the flu virus has led to an estimated 9 million to 41 million cases of illness. In addition, there have been approximately 140,000 to 710,000 hospital admissions and a saddening 12,000 to 52,000 deaths yearly due to influenza-related complications. 
With such numbers, understanding the timing and nuances of the flu season becomes essential for protecting your health. This article will provide insights into the patterns of flu infection activity in the U.S.

Determining the exact onset of the flu season remains challenging as no specific calendar date earmarks its beginning. However, flu season is frequently associated with the colder periods, typically characterized by the onset of winter months. 

The drop in temperatures and the onset of chillier climates play a pivotal role in the rise of flu viruses. During these times, respiratory viruses, including the influenza infection, find favorable conditions to spread.

October is a significant month; it often begins with a discernible uptick in flu cases and reported flu symptoms, indicating that seasonal influenza has unofficially commenced for many. 

In October, individuals should start considering their flu vaccination options, as the season typically falls into a pattern of increasing intensity following this month.


When Does Flu Season Peak?

Historically, the peak flu activity in the U.S. has predominantly occurred between December and February.

A valuable resource that sheds light on this topic is a detailed chart regarding flu activity peak months in the U.S. provided by the CDC. A clear trend emerges when we analyze the flu activity data, spanning the 1982-1983 season to the 2021-2022 season. February has been the flu season peak month nearly three times more often than the surrounding months: December, January, and March.

For those unfamiliar with the statistics, they denote the month where the most significant percentage of respiratory specimens tested positive for influenza virus infection during a particular flu season.

The repercussions of the flu can be dynamic and vary considerably each season. Elements such as infection rates, hospitalizations, and mortality rates can fluctuate based on numerous factors.Considering this, it is wise to keep up-to-date with current trends and activity during the flu season, as there is no guarantee that the virus will peak parallel with the data from the chart.


How Does the CDC Monitor Flu Season?

Every year brings with it the uncertainty of how the flu will impact communities across the nation. Given this unpredictability, it's important to have robust systems in place to monitor flu activity. 

The CDC plays a critical role in this endeavor. With vigilant monitoring year-round, the CDC releases a comprehensive weekly report named FluView. For those inclined towards a more profound understanding of the data, FluView Interactive offers a deeper dive into the statistics and trends.

This invaluable data is not just the result of the CDC's effort alone. Instead, it represents a collaborative synergy between the CDC and various local health organizations, diagnostic laboratories, and dedicated medical professionals nationwide. The monitoring closely inspects five pivotal areas, drawing from nine distinct data sources. The goals are as follows:

  1. To ascertain when and where the flu is manifesting.
  2. To keep a pulse on the magnitude of flu-related sickness in the population.
  3. To pinpoint the specific types of flu viruses in circulation.
  4. To detect any mutations or changes within these viruses.
  5. To gauge the impact of the flu on hospitalizations and fatalities in the U.S.

By continually updating this treasure trove of information weekly, the CDC ensures that the nation stays one step ahead, better prepared, and more informed about the challenges of the influenza season.


What other respiratory viruses circulate during flu season?

While flu viruses rightfully demand significant attention during the season, it's not the sole player in respiratory illnesses. Indeed, the flu season sees the circulation of a medley of other respiratory viruses. The symptoms they produce can closely mimic those of the flu, making it imperative for individuals and medical professionals to be well-acquainted with them.

For instance, the rhinovirus, often lurking behind the common cold, frequents the same season. Similarly, the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is another culprit active during this period. In young children, RSV can lead to significant respiratory distress, and for those aged 65 and older, the outcomes can be even more dire, occasionally proving fatal.

The list continues. Other viral agents that might cross your path during the flu season include human parainfluenza viruses (HPIV), known to cause croup and pneumonia; human metapneumovirus (HMPV), which can lead to upper and lower respiratory tract infections; respiratory adenoviruses responsible for a range of illnesses from cold to bronchitis, and human coronaviruses, commonly associated with mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses.

In sum, several viruses show during the flu season, each with its own challenges and symptomatology. Being informed is the first step to preparedness, ensuring that one can effectively navigate and manage the risks of the season.


When is the best time to get a Flu Shot?

Deciding the timeline for flu vaccines can seem complex, given the various recommendations and personal considerations.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) consistently recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone six months and older. Typically, flu season intensifies during the colder months, making September and October ideal for most to get a flu shot. An early flu vaccination in July and August might not ensure immunity throughout the height of flu activity, so it's generally not advised, though there are exceptions for certain groups. 

Adults, especially those at higher risk, like those 65 and older, and pregnant individuals in their earlier trimesters, should be cautious. However, those in the third trimester might lean towards an early flu shot to shield their newborns from influenza virus exposure potentially.

For children requiring two doses of the flu shot, the initial one should be as soon as the flu vaccines are available, and the subsequent dose should follow in at least four weeks. The CDC emphasizes that as long as flu viruses are circulating, it's never too late to get a flu shot, even if it stretches to May or June. Given these guidelines, consulting with a healthcare professional is always wise, ensuring the flu vaccine aligns with individual needs and maximizes protection during the flu season.

Meet the Author

Max Muller - Founding Partner

Mr. Muller currently devotes the majority of his law practice to aggressively fighting for the victims of unsafe drug and medical device injuries, as well as vaccine injuries and vaccine reactions involving the flu shot, TDaP/DTaP vaccine, and more. He has handled hundreds of SIRVA injury cases (shoulder injury related to vaccine administration), especially those involving bursitis, tendonitis, frozen shoulder, and rotator cuff tears. Mr. Muller also handles cases where vaccines caused serious nerve injuries such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome. Mr. Muller has recovered millions of dollars in compensation for his clients in the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

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