Although flu season "peaks" in January and February, flu season is starting now in Northern Virginia and will last through May, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Northern Virginia has low levels of flu infections right now, but infection rates are slightly higher in Washington, D.C., Google Flu Trends data shows. The trends are based on search engine data related to the flu and its symptoms.
“The past three years have demonstrated that influenza is predictably unpredictable,” said Howard Koh, assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during a news conference last week. “When it comes to flu, we can’t look to the past to predict the future. Stay healthy — get vaccinated.”
The Flu or a Cold? Telling the Difference
Fairfax County's Health Department website has a chart showing the differences between a cold and influenza.
The flu usually comes with a fever, headache and body aches, all of which are rare with the common cold.
Colds usually comes with a runny nose and watery eyes, which are rare with the flu.
Active Flu Strains in 2012
A news release from the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, this year’s vaccine protects against the same H1N1 virus as in past year, but adds two new ones.
CDC data showed that about 128 million people, or 42 percent of the U.S. population, got their flu shots during the 2011-2012 flu season. These results are far below the goal of 80 percent for people ages 6 months to 65 years and 90 percent for people over 65.
According to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, more than 85 million doses of flu vaccine have been distributed since Sept. 14. Officials estimate that about 135 million doses will be made available at pharmacies, doctors’ offices and other retailers during the 2012-2013 season.