Although we can't predict exactly when flu season will start and stop each year, there are certain things we can expect. For the 2013 - 2014 flu season, this is some of what you should be prepared for.
2013 - 2014 Flu Symptoms
Flu symptoms don't change much from year to year. Typical flu symptoms include:
- Body Aches
Some people (usually children) may experience vomiting or diarrhea, but these are not common symptoms of seasonal flu. Instead, they are usually caused by stomach viruses, or gastroenteritis.
Prepare for Flu Season
No matter what time of year it is, you can prepare for flu season. If flu vaccines are available, get vaccinated. If they are not, take other precautions and have a plan for the coming flu season. You can find all of the information you need here:
Flu season typically peaks in February or March but can start as early as October in the United States. There is no way to know when exactly flu activity will start to increase each year until it happens. Being prepared is important to protect yourself and your family from the flu each year.
The CDC keeps track of flu activity in the US throughout the year. Most states monitor and report flu activity levels during flu season as well. Even if you don't live in the US, many countries around the world monitor and report outbreaks of the flu and Google even has a flu tracker that monitors activity based on the number of flu related searches. You can track flu activity in your area here:
Flu Treatment Options
If you get the flu, the first thing to do is contact your health care provider. Depending on your health, symptoms and risk level, you may be able to take antiviral medications.
Even if you aren't a candidate for antiviral medications, there are things you can do to make your symptoms more bearable while you wait for the virus to run it's course.
What You Need to Know About This Year's Flu Vaccine
Flu vaccines change every year in anticipation of the strains of influenza that will cause illness in the community. Public health experts do their best to choose strains of influenza that they believe will circulate the following flu season but those strains have to be chosen about 6 months in advance so there is time for the vaccines to be manufactured.
For the 2013 - 2014 flu season there will be a variety of flu vaccines available. Most will be trivalent vaccines, meaning they will contain three strains of the influenza virus. A few will be quadrivalent vaccines, containing four strains of influenza.
The three strains of influenza that will be included in all flu vaccines are:
- A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus
- A(H3N2) virus antigenically like the cell-propagated prototype virus A/Victoria/361/2011
- B/Massachusetts/2/2012-like virus
Flu vaccines that contain four strains will have an extra strain of influenza B - a B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus.
Among the flu vaccines available this year, there will be the traditional flu shot, the nasal spray flu vaccine, the intradermal flu shot, the high dose flu vaccine and the preservative-free flu shot. Not all of these flu vaccines are right for everyone though. To learn more about the many types of flu vaccines available to you, see:
What You Should Know for the 2013 - 2014 Influenza Season Seasonal Influenza (Flu) 6 May 13. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. US Department of Health and Human Services. 19 May 13.