Friday, May 16, 2008

Get Ready Mailbag

Welcome to the Get Ready Mailbag, a new feature on this blog. As we receive questions from our readers by e-mail and letters, we'll occasionally post our answers here. Got a question you want answered? Send an e-mail to today!

Q. I know that flu season is usually in the winter, but I'm feeling sick and think it might be the flu. Is it possible to get the flu in the summer?

A. That's a great question. The simple answer is that yes, it's possible to get the flu in the summer — but it isn't common. Explaining why is a little more complicated.

In the Northern Hemisphere, winter is the time for flu. In the United States, flu season can range from November to as late as May, encompassing parts of fall, winter and spring. But during summer, if you think you have the flu it is most likely another type of respiratory illness.

It's not impossible to catch flu in the summer, though, and travel is often the culprit. While the flu season is associated with the winter months, remember that in the Southern Hemisphere, winter is from April through September — and so is flu season! And in the tropics, you could be at risk of flu year round because there is no defined flu season. Travelers can also catch the flu in the summer if they are involved in group travel, like a cruise or a long flight, and someone brings on board the flu virus that they caught during a winter outbreak at home.
So if you plan to head south this summer, have a vacation planned in the tropics or will be taking a cruise — take precautions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting a flu shot if you didn't already this flu season. And don't forget to take simple steps to stay healthy: Wash your hands with soap often, cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze and cough and avoid close contact with people who are sick from a respiratory illness. If you have a respiratory illness, keep this in mind to protect the people you live and work with from getting sick.

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