This year has been all bad news for anyone looking to avoid the sniffles. First we found out that the flu shot was, well, not so effective this year, then that the flu could spread just by breathing and then, inevitably, you picked up at least some unpleasant winter symptoms from your kids or workplace. You’re only human if it has you wondering, when does flu season end already?!
And since 2018 seems to be the year of the flu, it’s only fitting if you’re worried that it could last longer this year than normal. So we’ll break down what’s typical, what experts are saying about this year and what it all means for you.
When does flu season end normally?
The United States experiences epidemics of season flu each year. It’s considered normal by the CDC and nothing to worry too much about as long as you get your flu shot as recommended by medical experts. But although it happens annually, the exact timing can differ from year to year. The peak of flu season can happen as early as mid-November and as late as March. Although it’s not a frequent occurrence, the CDC says flu season can last as late as May.
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This year partly feels worse than past years because the entire country generally doesn’t experience the episdemic at the same time. This is the first time in 15 flu seasons that the entire continental United States has reported such flu symptoms in the same week. “We often see different parts of the country light up at different times, but for the past three weeks the entire country has been experiencing lots of flu all at the same time,” Dr. Daniel Jernigan, director of the influenza division in the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease at CDC told CNN.
What about this year? When does flu season end?
There’s still widespread flu activity in every state except Hawaii, according to a weekly flu report sent out by the CDC just last Friday. Unfortunately, that probably means the true answer to questions of when does flu season end this year is the last thing you’d want to hear: It’s going to be a while.
This year’s flu season has not even peaked yet if we’re going off of the data that has been released, says Kristen Nordlund, a spokeswoman for the CDC. "Hopefully we're in the peak currently, since the data is a week behind, or that it peaks soon. Regardless, there is a lot of flu activity happening across the country and likely many more weeks to come," Nordlund told CNN. But we won’t know until data on last week is released this coming Friday.
The deaths of seven more children were reported last week, bringing this year’s total pediatric death toll to 37. And the rate of hospitalizations is only going up, too. There were 41.9 hospitalizations for every 100,000 people reported last week, an increase from the week before. This is consistent with the trend of the past few weeks.
So when does flu season end? Is there even an end in sight? While there is some data showing that perhaps a small decline is happening in certain areas, most states are seeing the same high levels with increases. “We have several more weeks of flu to go,” Jernigan told CNN. “However, we have some signs that flu activity may have peaked in some parts of the country. California and other states on the West Coast are seeing activity begin to go down."
What does this mean for you?
If you have been lucky enough to steer clear of all symptoms so far, you might want to consider getting the flu shot — even given your current good luck. (Read our guide if you’re wondering: Is it too late to get the flu shot?) After all, you’re still not completely in the clear. The CDC is “starting to see some increase in Influenza A H1N1 and Influenza B activity,” Nordlund reported.
If you have employees in your workplace, encourage them to stay home if they’re sick, and do the same if you feel like you’re starting to come down with flu-like symptoms to avoid spreading it further. If you’re at high risk of catching the flu, see your doctor and get treatment if you start feeling sick.
Otherwise, hang in there, folks. And maybe stock up on some chicken soup — you know, just in case.