The Flu Season That Never Was

Flu season mildest on record for lowest and shortest peak

(RxWiki News) Did you catch the flu this year? If you did, you were one of the relative few: This year's flu season was the mildest since record-keeping began.

Flu season typically begins in December and ends in May. But the 2011 – 2012 season began late, and continued to remain mild throughout the entire season.

That means that in the US, there were fewer visits to the doctor for flu symptoms than normal years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which tracks flu data.

"Take precautions to avoid flu."

Every year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) keeps a close eye on flu trends from week to week during flu season. According to their report, “The season set a new record for the lowest and shortest peak for influenza-like-illness since this type of surveillance began.”

In fact, the number of patient visits for flu-like symptoms only exceeded baseline for one week out of the season. “Baseline” patient visits are defined as roughly the mean percentage of patient visits for flu during non-influenza weeks for the previous three seasons.

In normal years, the number of patient visits is above baseline for between 8 and 20 weeks. The average is 13 weeks above baseline.

Dr. Joseph Bresee, Chief of the Epidemiology and Prevention Branch in CDC's Influenza Division said in a statement: “In terms of influenza-like illness, this not only the shortest time we were above baseline, but it’s also the lowest ‘peak’ ever recorded.”

So why was this season so mild? The CDC is not completely certain.

But Dr. Bresee suspects that a mild winter, few new strains of the virus, and an effective vaccine contributed to the low number of visits to the doctor.

Manufacturers of the flu vaccine reported distributing 132 million doses this past flu season. Dr. Bresee credited increasing vaccine coverage with widespread flu immunity among the US population.

Although flu season is over, the virus is still circulating. You'll want to take precautions against infection, especially if you are in close proximity to someone with flu-like symptoms.

The best protection against flu, next to being vaccinated, is to practice proper hygiene and health.

  • Wash your hands often, and before you touch your face.
  • Cover your nose when you sneeze with a tissue or your upper sleeve.
  • Boost your immune system by getting good rest, exercising consistently, eating well, and managing your stress.

The CDC's FluView report is released every week throughout the year.

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Review Date: 
June 19, 2012