If you've been holding your breath during this devastating flu season (yes, you can catch the flu just by breathing), you'll be happy to know it's almost safe to exhale. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu season has finally peaked. But you might want to wait before throwing out your box of tissues in celebration — it's not officially over quite yet.
"It looks like we peaked in early February, based on our data," CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund told Time. But the most widespread flu season on record won't be completely dunzo for another month or so.
"Even though it looks like flu activity is decreasing in some parts of the country, there's still a lot of it out there. We're not out of the woods yet. It's likely that we'll probably see flu activity through the middle of April."
In fact, most states are still reporting a great deal of flu activity. The CDC's latest report <ahref="http: time.com="" 5172552="" flu-season-cdc-update="" "=""> </ahref="http:>from the week ending February 24 revealed that the percentage of all outpatient doctor visits due to flu-like symptoms had dropped from 6.4 to 5 percent. Which is great, but it's still much higher than during flu's off-season average of 2.2 percent. There were also 17 additional pediatric deaths, bringing the flu season's total death count to 114.
Just because flu season is winding down doesn't mean unvaccinated people should skip getting the flu shot. The deadly influenza A (specifically the H3N2 strain) may be on the decline, but the proportion of influenza B viruses is on the rise. "Like previous seasons when H3N2 was dominant in the beginning of the season, we may see a late-season bump of influenza B," Nordlund told the Chicago Tribune via email.
Even though this season's vaccine is 36 percent effective overall and only 25 percent effective against the H3N2 strain, it's 67 percent effective against the other influenza A strain (H1N1) and 42 percent against influenza B viruses, according to the CDC. So it's not a bad idea to get a flu shot to protect yourself for the duration of flu season. According to clinicians, even partial protection can reduce the severity of illness and ultimately prevent hospitalization and even death.
If you've already suffered through the chills, fevers, muscle aches, coughing, sneezing and fatigue one time this season and feel like you're in the clear, you are mistaken. Because there are four different types of influenza (A, B, C and D) and different strains of each, it's possible to get the flu a second time.
"Your likelihood of getting the same flu again is lower," Denise Pate, M.D., internal medicine physician with Medical Offices of Manhattan, told Health. "However, you can become infected with a different strain, and the antibodies you formed from the first bout are not providing protection."
While this latest news from the CDC offers a light at the end of the tunnel for the most severe flu season we've seen in a long time, don't drop your defenses quite yet. Here are 12 not-so-common tips to fend off the cold and flu.
Read more: Should You Have Sex When You Have the Flu?
What Do YOU Think?
Have you battled the flu this season? Did you get it more than once? What precautions are you taking to avoid getting infected? Share your thoughts in the comments!