According to health officials, the flu season is the mildest one in the past 3 years but it is not over and the flu still cropping up in new areas of the country.
In most years, flu season peaks in February or early March, but as of this week, flu is still spreading and the peak is not in sight yet, according to Lynnette Brammer, an epidemiologist with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s influenza division.
“Flu activity is still going up,” she said. “It’s going to be a later peak.” Brammer is still expecting the season to peak in March, but it could linger on until April.
On the plus side, this year’s flu vaccine is a good match for the circulating flu viruses. The vaccine is about 59% effective this year, the CDC said. That’s much better than last year when the vaccine didn’t contain the most common circulating virus, according to the CDC.
“This means that getting a flu vaccine this season reduced the risk of having to go to the doctor because of flu by nearly 60%,” Dr Joseph Bresee, chief of CDC’s Epidemiology and Prevention Branch, said in a statement. “It’s good news and underscores the importance and the benefit of both annual and ongoing vaccination efforts this season.”
Since the season hasn’t peaked, Brammer is still advising people who haven’t had a flu shot to get one. “There is still value to getting vaccinated,” she said.
This flu season is a welcome change from last year, which saw a particularly early and nasty flu season. By this time last year, flu was already severe and sending thousands of Americans — especially older ones — to the hospital, Brammer said. In fact, she added, “By this time last year, we had peaked and were coming down.”