Health officials are warning that the United States may have an unusually harsh flu season this year.
But they stress that flu seasons are notoriously difficult to predict, and it’s far too early to know for sure what may happen.
The concern stems from several factors, including signs that the season started a few weeks earlier than usual. “When you have an early start with regional outbreaks, that is generally not a good sign,” says Anthony Fauci, who directs the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “Sometimes that’s the forerunner of a serious season.”
An early start could mean a longer season, which could mean more people end up getting infected with the flu.
Another reason for concern is that Australia had a severe flu season this year.
“We generally follow in our season what happened in the Southern Hemisphere, such as in Australia,” Fauci says. “And Australia had a particularly bad influenza season for a number of reasons.”