Updated September 2023
What will the 2023-2024 flu season bring?
No two flu seasons are alike. Some years are relatively mild, while others result in a pandemic, like the swine flu that wrapped around the globe in 2009.
At Raleigh Medical Group, we stay informed about the latest developments as flu season approaches. That’s why we want to share with you some insights on what to expect in 2023-2024.
We’ll review all the information related to the flu season, including:
- Advice on how to avoid the flu
- The myths surrounding the flu vaccine
- The symptoms of the flu
- How the flu spreads
- The latest news on the upcoming flu season
What Months Are Considered Flu Season?
While flu seasons tend to vary from year to year, typically in the United States, most cases of the flu occur in the fall and winter. The months that show the most flu activity are December, January, and February.
However, you can still catch the flu at any time of year, which is why the vaccine is so important.
The Centers for Disease Control compiled data on the peak months for the last 36 flu seasons. Most flu seasons peaked in February, however, December easily came in second place. January and March were close, with both coming in around third place.
However, the CDC did recognize that 2020-2021 had an uncharacteristically low level of flu virus circulating.
When Is Flu Season Over in 2023-2024?
As we mentioned earlier, the flu season will usually peak in February. However, it’s important to realize that you can still catch the flu as late as May.
The Latest News on the 2023-2024 Flu Season
Unless you have a crystal ball, there’s no way to tell exactly what the next flu season has in store, but we have some useful information that gives a hint.
Typically, you should get your flu vaccine in September or October, right before the start of the flu season. This same advice holds true. Last year, we had an early flu season, where the flu spiked in November instead of January/February.
According to the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, likely, we’re also going to have an early flu season this year—so expect more cases around November. In addition, it may be another year or two to get back to the “regular” schedule where the flu spikes in February.
To be sure you keep up-to-date on the most recent statistics, you can visit the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services as a resource for information specifically dedicated to the most recent information, as well as some useful data on the flu vaccination.
You can even access more detailed weekly data updates through the Centers for Disease Control’s “Flu View.”
Does the Flu Vaccine Cause the Flu? The Truth About the Flu Vaccine
There’s a lot of misinformation about the flu vaccine, but the most common falsehood is that the shot causes the flu. It does not.
This is because the vaccine uses an inactive or “dead” virus. The flu shot is important because it helps your body develop antibodies to fight it.
But what if you have a friend, cousin, or relative who felt so terrible after the vaccine that he or she ended up with the flu? Well, that may have been the case, but it wasn’t due to the flu shot.
In many instances, someone may have already contracted the flu virus before getting the shot. Remember that it can take up to two weeks for flu-like symptoms to surface.
It’s also a good reminder that several different types of viruses are very similar to the flu, but are not influenza. Additionally, it can take the flu shot for as long as two weeks before it can become fully effective.
If you’d like to test your current flu knowledge, we’ve compiled a quiz for you.
You can also take a look at some of these flu vaccine FAQs that can help you make informed decisions about your health care.
What Are the Side Effects of the Flu Vaccine 2023?
Side effects for flu vaccines are typically very minor—and are much milder than a case of the actual flu!
Side effects may include:
- Swelling where the shot was given
- Low-grade fever
- Mild nausea
- Muscle aches
But as we mentioned earlier, these symptoms are very mild. They generally go away within a few days.
Does the Vaccine Only Protect Against One Strain of Flu?
It protects against three or four strains of influenza that research indicates will be the most common.
The strains are selected based on information from the World Health Organization and the CDC, which then compile information to determine which flu strains appear to be the most prevalent this year.
The composition of all the U.S. flu vaccines is evaluated every year and updated to be sure they match the viruses that are circulating.
For the 2023 -2024 flu season, the CDC lists that the U.S. flu vaccines will contain:
- A/Victoria/4897/2022 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus for egg-based vaccines and
- A/Wisconsin/67/2022 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus for cell-based or recombinant vaccines.
The effectiveness of the flu vaccine depends upon having an accurate match between the circulating viruses and the vaccine designed to stop them.
According to the CDC:
“Preliminary estimates show that last season, people who were vaccinated against flu were about 40% to 70% less likely to be hospitalized because of flu illness or related complications.”
If you’d like to see a graphical representation of how the flu virus attacks your body, you can check out these images of the virus from the CDC.
You can learn more about how a vaccine works by reading this blog on the most common adult vaccines.
Is There Anyone Who Should NOT Get the Flu Vaccine?
The flu shot should NOT be given to:
- Those who are younger than six months
- Those who have had life-threatening allergies or reactions to the vaccine
- Those who have or have ever had Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a serious, paralyzing illness
- Those who are sick
Those with egg allergies should speak with their doctors about special considerations. In certain cases, those with egg allergies will be able to receive the flu vaccine. All the internal medicine practices of Raleigh Medical Group, PA use a flu vaccine that is not developed on an egg–based medium and is therefore considered safe for those with egg allergies.
For the latest information and updates on the vaccination and those with egg allergies, visit the Centers for Disease Control website for the 2023-2024 flu vaccination recommendations.
Important Flu Facts You Can’t Afford to Ignore
Most healthy people who get the flu recover after a few weeks of feeling miserable. However, there are those for which the flu can be life-threatening particularly the very young, the elderly, and those who are immunocompromised.
During the 2021-2022 flu season, the flu was associated with 9 million illnesses and 4 million medical visits. In addition, there were 5,000 deaths and 10,000 hospitalizations.
Who Is At Greater Risk of Serious Flu Illnesses?
- Those who are at the highest risk of developing serious, flu-related complications are:
- Those who are pregnant
- Those 64 and older
- Children younger than 5 years of age
- Residents of long-term care facilities
- Anyone with a weakened immune system
- People with chronic, serious medical conditions such as Asthma, Lung disease, Heart disease, HIV/AIDS, Cancer
Remember, even if you do not fall into one of those categories, someone you know and love might. Therefore, a flu vaccine doesn’t only protect you, it can also protect those you love—no one wants to be the person who spreads influenza to someone whose body is ill-equipped to fight it.
In addition, it’s important to realize that you can spread the flu five to seven days after you’ve become sick, and most people are most contagious three to four days after the flu begins.
Remember that those with weakened immune systems or even the very young may be contagious longer.
Those with the flu can spread it from as far as six feet away.
What Are the Symptoms of the Flu? A Review of Flu Symptoms
You’re probably already familiar with the long litany of flu symptoms. Everything from a cough to a runny nose to body aches can be indicative of influenza. However, there are a few things you should know.
First, not everyone with the flu will have a fever. Second, children are much more likely to have vomiting and diarrhea than adults when they catch the flu.
If you’re having difficulty telling if you’re coming down with a bad cold or if you have the flu, just remember that, unlike a cold, the flu comes on suddenly.
Let’s take a quick review of the common flu symptoms:
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Body aches
What Are Your First Symptoms of the Flu?
This may vary from person to person, depending upon your age and individual health. However, the first symptoms of the flu are typically fatigue, scratchy throat and fever. While the common cold can also cause these symptoms, it is much more severe in the flu. Body aches and chills may follow, and other symptoms develop quickly. The fast and impactful onset of symptoms is often how you can tell the difference between flu and the common cold.
A good defense can go a long way toward ensuring you don’t catch the flu this fall. There are several things you can do to minimize your chances of getting the flu:
- Get a flu vaccine.
The CDC recommends getting vaccinated by the end of October. Getting a vaccine is important for those at high risk of complications from the flu.
- Be proactive in keeping germs from spreading.
This means limiting contact with those who are sick and adhering to the following protocols:
- Wash your hands thoroughly, especially if you’ve been in communal areas or near someone who is sick.
- Avoid touching your nose or eyes after being around areas where you could have been exposed to the flu.
- Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze and encourage others to do so as well.
- After sneezing or coughing, wash your hands immediately.
- Make a pact with your coworkers.
This is a simple pact: don’t come to work sick. Encourage your coworkers to stay at home if they’re experiencing flu-like symptoms. Likewise, you shouldn’t “tough it out” by going to work when you think you’re coming down with the flu. This is one important way to be sure your office not only remains healthy but remains productive.
Trust us, your coworkers will thank you!
How Is the Flu Spread?
The flu is spread when people sneeze, cough, or talk. These droplets land in the mouths and noses of other people where they can be inhaled into the lungs.
Sometimes, you can catch the flu by touching a contaminated object and then touching the nose or eyes.
What To Do If You Have the Flu
This is something we cannot emphasize enough: The flu is a virus. Therefore, antibiotics won’t help.
The overuse of antibiotics has caused some serious public health hazards, particularly the development and prevalence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also called “superbugs.”
In most cases, if you are a reasonably healthy person with an un-compromised immune system, the flu will run its course.
However, there are some self-care measures you can take to help you feel better. These include:
- Rest is vital to give your body time to fight the virus. This is not the time to “tough it out.” As we mentioned earlier, doing so can spread the virus to friends, relatives, and coworkers—and some of them may be immunosuppressed. Do yourself and your body a favor: stay at home.
- It’s also important to drink plenty of fluids. Try water or warm soup. Don’t reach for sodas or drinks full of sugar.
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers
- These can help ease the discomfort of body aches. Be sure to read the directions carefully to ensure you’re taking the correct dosage. Remember that children have different dosages than adults, and not all over-the-counter medicine is appropriate for kids. Please check with your child’s pediatrician regarding flu treatment recommendations.
- There are some antiviral medications available on the market that may also help with the length and severity of symptoms but need to be given early after the onset of symptoms to be helpful. Please call our office to see if these would be helpful for your individual flu case.
Do You Have More Questions About the Flu? Ask Us!
If you’re not sure if you have the flu or concerned about flu activity in our area, please speak with us. Remember, the flu is a virus, so antibiotics will not be effective in fighting it.
We’ve been providing care for Triangle residents for decades, so we’ve seen a lot of flu seasons come and go.
While each one presents its unique set of challenges, one thing remains the same: We are dedicated to your health and well-being.
We want to work with you to help you avoid getting the flu by getting a vaccine. If you do get the flu, we’re available to you to provide any information or help you need.
Get a head start on flu season. Schedule an appointment for a vaccination today.