Flu now considered epidemic in U.S. as hospitalizations climb during peak season

And among the 54 jurisdictions in the flu surveillance system (every state plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands), 50 reported "regional" or "widespread" flu activity at the end of a year ago.

But while experts say the flu season may have reached its peak, they warn it will take many more weeks for flu activity to truly slow down. "If you wash your hands, you have a much lower chance of contracting the flu", said Dr. Whitehead. Other strains of the influenza virus, such as type B, may arise, he said.

Official effectiveness data on this season's flu vaccine will not be available until the middle of next month.

Goldman noted Friday while some media reports have characterized this year's vaccine as less effective in stopping H3N2, people should remember the shot can still help people who come down with illness from getting as sick. "And by the time they go there, they already have secondary complications".

Symptoms of the flu include fever, headache, cough, runny or stuffy nose, fatigue and muscle aches.

"Every week shows a little more of an increase of influenza across the state", Dr. William Berg, director of the Peninsula Health District, said.

First, it's still not too late to get a flu shot.

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Dan Jernigan, the director of the Influenza Division of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said the season is "very active", and there are early indicators it may be severe.

The traditional flu season lasts from October through May.

One in roughly 10,000 children under the age of four have been hospitalized with the flu this season. "While it's important that these individuals get the flu vaccine, it's equally important that young and healthy Iowans be vaccinated so they don't spread the flu to others who may be at higher risk". People in these groups should consult a health care provider if they suspect infection with the flu and should begin antiviral medications if recommended by their doctor as soon as possible.

You may have heard that the flu that's doing the most damage this year is an H3N2 strain, and that it is less vulnerable to the vaccine.

"These viruses are often linked to more severe illness, especially among children and people age 65 and over", Fitzgerald said.

To stay clear of the flu until its end - typically around March - Grey and Garcia recommend frequent hand washing, following good hygiene, resting and drinking plenty of fluids.

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