Somewhere between 5% and 20% of Americans contract the influenza virus every year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]. Although it’s impossible to predict the exact timing and severity of the coming flu season, international trends suggest that this year, the flu may hit both earlier and harder.
Australia has often been used as a benchmark for estimating when the flu will escalate in the U.S. because its flu season, which generally runs six months ahead of our own from May through October, tends to follow a similar pattern. Based on Australia’s flu season this year, cases in the U.S. could start to become widespread in certain areas by as soon as October, rather than December as is characteristic of most flu seasons. In addition, Australia’s season has progressed quickly, with the number of confirmed cases at abnormally high levels.
As in past years, the CDC recommends an annual influenza vaccination for everyone 6 months and older with an appropriate licensed vaccine. Recognizing flu symptoms early is another key to stopping the spread of illness. Proper diagnosis and treatment can also prevent health complications like sinus and ear infections, dehydration, pneumonia and sepsis that can lead to hospitalization and even death, especially among very young children and the elderly.