Weather and Health: Influenza

Last week, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the flu-season is officially under way in the United States.  This is the flu’s latest arrival in twenty-four years.

Flu-season typically lasts from November to March, winter in the U.S.  For this reason, many people believe that cold weather causes illness.  However, the fact is that viruses, not weather, cause influenza, a respiratory infection that is commonly called the flu.

In the colder months, people tend to gather indoors and interact in close proximity.  This increases the chance for spreading germs.  This winter, however, mild conditions have dominated the weather across much of the country.  As a result, people have been spending more time outdoors. Some medical experts cite this as one of the reasons for the reduced spread of the virus. Nonetheless, the flu is still active.  Cases have been reported in all fifty states with Colorado and California showing widespread activity.

Influenza is an infectious disease that usually affects millions of people each year. To defend against it, the CDC recommends getting an annual vaccination.  Other preventative actions include staying away from anyone who is infected and washing your hands frequently.

Image Credit: Center for Disease Control and Prevention

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About Melissa Fleming

Melissa Fleming is an environmental communicator working at the intersection of art and science. She is passionate about exploring, learning, and sharing information about the natural world. She has presented her interdisciplinary work in a variety of mediums at venues and conferences around the world.