The Science Behind: Flu season


Graphic by Hamadi Belghachi

Talia Zitner

It’s that time of year again! Everyone is sneezing, hands are dry from washing them over and over, and it seems that CVS has simultaneously run out of mini packs of tissues and hand sanitizer. Flu season almost feels like an essential part of the fall and winter, and each year comes with its own unique strain. This season, impress everyone you know with some of these “flu facts!”

  1. The flu is super contagious! It can even spread through the air. The virus can live on surfaces like books, doorknobs, and cell phones. Minimizing the amount you touch your nose or mouth can help reduce your risk of getting sick.
  2. Symptoms of the flu usually vary, but fevers, headaches, aches and pains, tiredness, stuffy noses, sore throat, and coughing are all typical signs of the flu. The flu is very different from a cold, and indicators of a cold will be much less severe than the flu. In fact, over 20,000 people die of the flu each year in the U.S.
  3. The flu is preventable. Each year, there is a different flu shot given out. The virus itself is constantly changing, and the body’s immune system response to a vaccine declines over time. The Center for Disease Control recommends that anyone above the age of six months get an annual flu shot. Flu season is typically between December and March, so it’s best to get a flu shot toward the end of October. The flu shot cannot cause you to get the flu, so there’s really no reason not to get one (unless you’re allergic).

Protecting yourself against the flu is incredibly important. Plenty of places in the city will provide free flu shots, such as CVS or Safeway. They can also be administered through your doctor. If you come down with the flu, you should take every precaution not to spread it. This might include missing school, but it’s important that if you know you’re infected to not expose others to the virus. Remember to wash your hands regularly, sneeze into your elbow (not into the air…ick) and to get a shot around the end of October! Keep yourself healthy this season. Get the shot, not the flu.