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If it seems like less people around your office are taking sick days this year, it may be due to the fact that the flu bug has been hibernating. NPR’s Shots blog reports that in the 29 years since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began tracking influenza, this is the slowest start to a flu season ever.
“Flu season usually kicks off in a big way in late December early January,” says the CDC’s Lyn Finelli. “It peaks at the end of February or the beginning of March and we usually have influenza around until May.”
Flu specialists are uncertain why the season has been so mild, but Finelli thinks that the warm winter may be a factor. “We know that influenza virus survives best in cool and dry conditions,” Finelli said. And when it’s cold outside, people tend to stay indoors, which raises the risk of coming in contact with someone who’s got the bug.
Also playing a part may be the fact that the main flu viruses this year have been around for a couple of years already, and people have built up an immunity.
Finally, 36% of Americans have gotten a flu shot, up from 32% last season. Vaccination “remains the most effective method to prevent influenza and its complications,” according to the CDC report.