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A Bad Flu Season

THE BEST DEFENSE Doctors say the flu vaccine is the best way to prevent infection by the flu virus. CARL D. WALSH—PORTLAND PRESS HERALD/GETTY IMAGES

Flu season in the United States runs from October through March. This year’s flu is especially bad. That is according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“We are currently in the midst of a very active flu season, with . . . the country experiencing widespread and intense activity,” says Brenda Fitzgerald. She leads the CDC. Data shows major flu activity in every state but Hawaii.

The flu is contagious contagious BLEND IMAGES—KIDSTOCK/GETTY IMAGES able to be passed from one person or animal to another (adjective) My sister can't come to school because her flu is still contagious. . It is caused by the influenza influenza KIDSTOCK/GETTY IMAGES a contagious viral infection that is commonly known as the flu (noun) Half the class was out sick with influenza. virus virus INDEED/GETTY IMAGES a small particle that causes disease (noun) The stomach virus is going around at school. . The flu can strike suddenly. It can cause fever and chills. It can make you tired. Cough and headache are also common.

Most people with the flu get better quickly. Often, the illness lasts less than two weeks. But the flu can be dangerous for children. And it can be dangerous for people over age 65. Doctors can treat the illness with medicine.

You can reduce your risk of getting the flu. How? Wash your hands often. You can also stop the illness from spreading. Do this by covering your mouth when coughing.

This year’s flu vaccine vaccine JGI/TOM GRILL/GETTY IMAGES a shot to protect against a disease (noun) He went to the doctor to get a vaccine. is only about 40% effective. Still, a flu shot is the Number 1 way to prevent infection. “While our flu vaccine is far from perfect, it is still the best defense we have,” Fitzgerald says.