My watch list  

Flu season

Main article: Influenza

Flu season is a term used to describe the regular outbreak in flu cases during the cold half of the year. Flu activity can sometimes be predicted and even tracked geographically. While the beginning of major flu activity in each season varies by location, in any specific location these minor epidemics usually take about 3 weeks to peak and another 3 weeks to significantly diminish.[1] Individual cases of the flu however, usually only last a few days. In some countries such as Japan and China, infected persons sometimes wear a surgical mask out of respect for others.



The annual flu (also called "seasonal flu" or "human flu") in the U.S. "results in approximately 36,000 deaths and more than 200,000 hospitalizations each year. In addition to this human toll, influenza is annually responsible for a total cost of over $10 billion in the U.S." [2]


Main article: Influenza

The garden variety flu that comes around every year is caused by Influenzavirus A, Influenzavirus B, or Influenzavirus C and are also known as human flu virus strains which is to say it has made genetic changes to adapt to its human hosts. It passes from human to human all year round and never goes away completely. When it is cold, infection from "human flu" increases roughly tenfold or more. Different strains of flu virus circulate in different years as it is constantly mutating. The influenza vaccine for the 2005 - 2006 flu season contains proteins from the coat of two subtypes of species A and from species B. Species B and C don't have subtypes.

It remains unclear why outbreaks of the flu occur seasonally rather than uniformly throughout the year. One possible explanation is that, because people are indoors more often during the winter, they are in close contact more often, and this promotes transmission from person to person. Another is that cold temperatures lead to drier air, which may dehydrate mucus, preventing the body from effectively expelling virus particles. The virus may also linger longer on exposed surfaces (doorknobs, countertops, etc.) in colder temperatures. Increased travel and visitation due to the holiday season may also play a role.[3]

Flu vaccinations

Main article: Influenza vaccine

Flu vaccinations have been used to diminish the effects of the flu season. Since the Northern and Southern Hemisphere have winter at different times of the year, there are actually two flu seasons each year. Therefore, the World Health Organization (assisted by the National Influenza Centers) makes two vaccine formulations every year; one for the Northern, and one for the Southern Hemisphere.

According to the U.S. Department of Health, a growing number of large companies provide their employees with seasonal flu shots, either at a small cost to the employee or as a free service.

The annually updated trivalent influenza vaccine consists of hemagglutinin (HA) surface glycoprotein components from influenza H3N2, H1N1, and B influenza viruses.[4] The dominant strain in January 2006 is H3N2. Measured resistance to the standard antiviral drugs amantadine and rimantadine in H3N2 has increased from 1% in 1994 to 12% in 2003 to 91% in 2005. [5][6]

See also

Sources and notes

  1. ^ National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Factsheet
  2. ^ National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza.
  3. ^ Slate's Explainer: Weather and the Flu Season
  4. ^ Daum LT, Shaw MW, Klimov AI, Canas LC, Macias EA, Niemeyer D, et al. Influenza A (H3N2) outbreak, Nepal. Emerg Infect Dis [serial on the Internet]. 2005 Aug [date cited]. Available from CDC
  5. ^ Bird Flu: Threat or Menace? Why avian sniffles need not ruffle our feathers... too much Ronald Bailey October 19, 2005
  6. ^ This Season's Flu Virus Is Resistant to 2 Standard Drugs New York Times. Accessed 30 Oct 2006

Further reading

  • CDC 2005-06 U.S. INFLUENZA SEASON SUMMARY - Contains about a dozen charts and graphs with extensive text
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Flu_season". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
Your browser is not current. Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 does not support some functions on Chemie.DE