How severe will this flu season be?

(Wendy Leung/ Globe and Mail) — It’s that time of year again when clinics and pharmacies offer flu shots, hospitals get ready for a surge of sick patients, and caregivers of young children and the elderly brace themselves for a winter of coughs, fevers and sniffles.

Just how nasty will the coming flu season be? It’s a question that eludes even the experts. Since flu viruses are constantly changing, the severity and timing of each season are notoriously unpredictable.

“I’ve been in this business long enough to know that it is treacherous to make influenza predictions,” says Danuta Skowronski, epidemiology lead for influenza and emerging respiratory pathogens at the BC Centre for Disease Control, who has been studying the flu for about 20 years.

Yet even though they warn it’s too early to tell how the season will pan out, experts like Skowronski are keeping a close eye on a few key factors, including signs of which flu strain will be most prevalent, and how effective this year’s flu shot will be.

Here’s what to watch for: (…)

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