The timing of flu is very unpredictable and can vary from season to season. Flu activity most commonly peaks in the U.S. in January or February. However, seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue to occur as late as May.
The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease. While there are many different flu viruses, the seasonal flu vaccine is designed to protect against the top three or four flu viruses that research indicates will cause the most illness during the flu season.
Influenza is a serious viral illness that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Every flu season is different, and influenza infection can affect people differently. Even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others. Over a period of 31 seasons between 1976 and 2007, estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people. During a regular flu season, about 90 percent of deaths occur in people 65 years and older.
In addition to getting vaccinated, you can take everyday preventive steps like staying away from sick people and washing your hands to reduce the spread of germs. If you are sick with flu, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading flu to others.
Encourage your loved ones to get vaccinated as soon as vaccine becomes available, preferably by October. Vaccination is especially important for people at high risk for serious flu complications, and their close contacts.
Children between 6 months and 8 years of age may need two doses of flu vaccine to be fully protected from flu. Your child’s healthcare provider can tell you whether two doses are recommended for your child.
WHO SHOULD GET A FLU VACCINE
People at high risk for developing flu-related complications:
- Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
- Adults 65 years of age and older
- Pregnant women
- American Indians and Alaskan Natives
People who have medical conditions including:
- Neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions