At this point, it's common knowledge that this year's flu season is truly terrible. An alarming amount of children have died of the virus and hospitalization rates are the highest they've been since records began. And, unfortunately, it doesn't seem like things are going to be getting any better any time soon. As the Center For Disease Control has continually pointed out, flu season actually stretches for tons of months, and can be at its peak for an awfully long time. So, when can we expect the flu season to be at its worst?
The flu is a seasonal virus, but it's also one you can catch it any time of the year. Flu season is only called flu season because, due to weather conditions, you're most likely to catch it then. In the United States, the flu season is considered to last from October to as late as May (so, yes, most of the year!), and patients are encouraged to get their flu shot in the late summer so as to protect themselves when fall rolls around. According to the CDC website, the government organization reported that they monitor the season by following certain indictors, like reports of flu hospitalizations and deaths. As the website said: "When these indicators rise and remain elevated for a number of consecutive weeks, 'flu season' is said to have begun."
However, it's worth noting that the flu is incredibly unpredictable. It can vary in different parts of the country, as well as from season to season. After all, weather varies based off what part of the country one is in — and also, the flu kind of does what it wants to do, you know? This is why it's almost impossible for doctors and the Center For Disease Control to predict when the flu will be at its worse, when it will peak, and when it will start to disappear.
However, there are some bits of data that are used to predict how the virus will spread amongst people, and for how long.
In short, there is a pattern flu season usually follows: it typically starts in October, just as the weather begins to get a bit chillier, and cases of the virus begin to be seen more and more throughout the month of November. This is especially true for people in larger cities, as they're more prone to interact with numerous people who may be spreading the virus.
Following November, the worst flu activity is usually between December and March, before it begins to taper down in April, before finally ceasing in May. (Of course, you can still get the flu in the summer, but it's less likely.) Typically the flu peaks during the month of February, but considering 2018 has featured a particularly bad flu season, it doesn't seem like the CDC is too confident about February being the peak. In fact, we might not even be close: As CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said in early Feb., "We have not hit our peak yet, unfortunately. Really, the bottom line is, there is still likely many more weeks to go."
The good news? Dr. Anne Schuchat, the acting CDC director, said, there are a few hopeful signals in the CDC's latest report: "For the second week in a row, there are signs that activity in the West may be easing up. However, we are by no means out of the woods."
Don't forget: it's still not too late to get your flu shot. Doctors and CDC officials continue to insist that this is your best way of preventing and fighting the flu. Stay healthy out there!