Flu season in the United States runs from October through March. And this year’s flu is especially bad, 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 CDC director Brenda Fitzgerald.
CDC data shows extensive flu activity in every state but Hawaii. “There’s a lot of flu in a lot of places,” says Dan Jernigan. He is the director of the CDC’s influenza division.
The flu is contagious. It is caused by the influenza virus. It is often mistaken for the common cold. But unlike a cold, the flu can strike suddenly. It can cause mild to severe symptoms. These include fever, chills, and fatigue, or tiredness. Cough and headache are also common.
Most people with the flu get better in a less than two weeks. But the flu can be dangerous for young children and the elderly. Doctors can prescribe medication to treat the illness.
You can reduce your risk of getting the flu with frequent hand washing. Cover your mouth when coughing so you don’t spread the illness. If possible, stay home if you are sick.
This year’s flu 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.