This year, COVID-19 vaccines have been the subject of everything from presidential speeches to hip-hop song parodies. Experts are saying that COVID-19 vaccination is especially important as the U.S. heads into the holiday season, when cold weather will intersect with family gatherings across the country. But the novel coronavirus isn’t the only respiratory disease that may hit the country this winter.
Winter also marks the peak of flu season in the Northern Hemisphere. While the flu is not often at the forefront of most Americans’ minds, it does take a heavy toll on the country. The disease has killed between 12,000 and 52,000 people a year between 2010 and 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Millions more people become infected with the flu, and hundreds of thousands require hospitalizations.
In 2021, many public health experts are concerned that the flu season could be particularly hard on the U.S. Last year’s flu season was unusually mild, largely thanks to widespread mask-wearing, social distancing, reduced travel, and other COVID-19 precautions. But this year, as restrictions have been lifted across the country, the flu could pack a harder punch. Americans’ immune systems may have forgotten how to protect against the flu because many of us weren’t exposed last year, explains Dr. Katelyn Jetelina, author of Your Local Epidemiologist.
Stacker compiled a list of 10 key facts for this year’s flu season from the CDC, the Association for Health Care Journalists, and other scientific and news sources. Read on to learn when to get your flu shot, who is eligible, and more.
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