Most people get the flu in February, study says
A recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study revealed that February is peak flu season over the last three decades.
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus that infects the nose, throat and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times, can lead to death.
In the Northern hemisphere, winter is the time for flu, but the exact timing and duration of flu season varies. While seasonal flu outbreaks can happen as early as October, most of the time flu activity peaks between December and February. Activity can last as late as May.
During the 32-year period of monitoring statistics from the virus, flu activity most often peaked in February (14 times), followed by December (six times), January and March (five seasons each).
Experts say the best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year, and to be aware of the last time a person has received one.
“Don’t think that the flu vaccine that you had last year will also protect you this year,” says Dr. Adeshola Ezeokoli, an internal medicine physician at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago. “The flu virus is one that mutates and changes with each season.”
Most people suffer from symptoms that include fever, coughing, sore throat, runny nose, headaches and overall body aches. The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses. Everyone 6 months old and older should get a flu vaccine as soon as the current season’s vaccines are available.
“Remember frequent handwashing, covering the cough with the elbow and not going to work when you are sick can help prevent the flu or prevent it from spreading,” says Dr. Ezeokoli. “Make sure that people around you such as children, elderly parents and those with chronic diseases, like diabetes, get their flu shot.”
The CDC recommends the following everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs:
- While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, except to get medical care or for other necessities.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.
People at high risk of serious flu complications will include young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease, and people 65 years and older.
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