To ward off the virus, get a flu shot now. There’s no need to miss school or work this flu season

By Angela Haupt
Posted: August 26, 2010

Perhaps no flu season in recent memory has been as hyped and harrowing as last year’s, when swine flu infected millions and vaccine shortages led to long lines and frustration. As a new flu season dawns, and students head back to school, the latest vaccine—which protects against three strains of flu expected to circulate in months ahead, including the H1N1 virus (aka swine flu)— is already arriving at doctors’ offices and other clinics. U.S. News answers pressing questions about the upcoming flu season, the new vaccine, and how to stay healthy.

[H1N1 Not a Threat, But Vaccine Still Warranted]

When does the flu season start and end?

Cases have already been reported by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That means flu is striking early this year—the season doesn’t officially start until October. Flu activity usually peaks in January, February, and March, and winds down in May, says Henry Bernstein, a professor of pediatrics at Dartmouth Medical School and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ infectious diseases committee.

What kind of flu season will it be?

Flu is unpredictable, and it’s impossible to say with any certainty what kind of season we’re in for. “It’s an imperfect art,” says Harvey Karp, a child development specialist at the University of Southern California School of Medicine.” But we went through a pretty robust H1N1 season last year, so a lot of people have immunity to that virus. That should be