It’s Flu Season, But What’s That Really Mean?

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Does influenza really have a season? And if so, when exactly is flu season? Experts agree that there is a period where flu outbreaks are more common. Generally these occur in the colder part of every year. So for the Southern Hemisphere that’s like March through September. For Americans, it’s more like September through March.

In the US, and most of the Northern Hemisphere, the season kicks off as the weather turns cooler. Autumn sees temperatures dropping rapidly and staying low, most years. This year, America is expected to have a particularly bad flu season because of how it played out down in Australia this year.

What’s Australia got do with how flu impacts America? A lot. Australia saw an early start to flu outbreaks this year, and a rather virulent one at that. They’ve seen more than 2.5 times the number of cases as last year. That’s not looking great for America.

Flu Vaccines and Flu Season

Additionally, the flu vaccine this year may not be as effective as it has been in previous years. Couple that with a rather aggressive version of influenza and this flu season could be one of the worst in decades. Part of the problem is that the influenza virus is quote good at adapting and there are numerous strains of it. The World Health Organization has to generally make a prediction about what strains may be prevalent in any given year, usually on what happened the previous year, and then create the formula for the coming year’s flu season. The vaccine is crafted by growing the virus in chicken eggs for around four months. So in order to have enough flu vaccine for an upcoming outbreak, they have to start as early as possible.

This results in them sometimes being wrong about what particular strains of influenza will be most common in the new flu season. Plus, influenza mutates fast. So fast in fact that when a flu outbreak happens and samples of the virus are taken, even though it’s the same strain, or version, it may already have begun changing. This makes the vaccine less effective because it was specifically targeting the original version of the virus.

No Flu Vaccine?

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get a flu vaccine before any upcoming flu season. The vaccine is still the best line of defense against the virus, even if it manages to mutate as the season progresses. A less effective vaccine at least prepares your body for the virus, it just may not totally prevent your getting sick.

The power of the flu vaccine can be seen in its ability to prevent transmission of several strains of the virus. If you get the flu vaccine and someone near you is infected with influenza, you’ve got a good chance of being inoculated against the specific strain they have. That means you wont’ get sick, it also means you will help prevent the unchecked spread of the potentially deadly virus. If you have elderly family members or children, or work with either of those groups of people, it’s even more important that you get vaccinated because you’re not only helping yourself, you may also be helping them. They have less effective immune systems and while the flu may only make you sick for a few days, it has the potential to kill them. So the next time flu season rolls around and you’re wondering about whether or not to get vaccinated, be sure to think of all the people you’ll also be helping, even if it means you might have a vaccine “hangover” for a day or two.

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