It may already be winter, but we haven’t reached the season’s peak — and it seems the same can be said about the flu.
According to Scientific American, the flu will reach its maximum point in February. And in even better news, it will likely be mild compared to other years. This is late compared to the last three years, when influenza reached its highest point in December.
This forecast is based on a new model, which looks at past flu seasons in the United States and makes mathematical predictions based on how the flu spreads. Then, it takes into account the latest data on the current flu season to make an educated guess on what the flu has in store for us.
Based on current data, there’s less than a 20% chance that influenza will reach its peak in January, but a 57% chance it will do so in February.
The season coming later in the year likely means less cases of the flu, which is the reason why scientists predict it will likely be milder than in years past.
“Historically, earlier-peaking flu seasons have tended to be more intense…[and] later-peaking seasons tend to be more mild,” reports Dave Osthus, a researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory who leads the flu forecast project.
As good as this all sounds, the model is still new and the lab admits there are factors that can lead to false readings. Researchers plan to pay attention to how well “the flu shot matches the strains of flu in circulation.” They also will pay attention to the number of Wikipedia searches for the flu, which can also help predict flu outbreaks, according to LiveScience.com.
For now, doctors say the later peak for flu season will allow more time for people to get the flu shot. And yes, they still recommend getting the flu shot, noting the term “mild” refers to how many people get sick, not the severity of the flu strain.