(RxWiki News) Last year's flu season was unusually mild. But this year is getting an unusually early start, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the CDC, the flu season has not started this early in nearly a decade. And it's spreading rapidly: The number of states reporting widespread flu activity doubled over the past week.
"Get your flu shot now."
It's too early to assess how bad the flu season might be. But the last time the season started this early, in 2003-2004, it was one of the deadliest seasons in the past 35 years, according to the Associated Press.
The strain that was so deadly in that season is very similar to one of the dominant strains this year. Fortunately, this year's vaccine is a better match to protect against that strain, says NPR's Shots Blog.
The other good news is that more people have already been vaccinated this year, and there is more vaccine available. It's not too late to get a flu shot, and protect yourself from what promises to be a difficult flu season.
Eight states are currently reporting widespread flu: Alabama, Alaska, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and South Carolina. That's double the number of states reporting the previous week – a sign that flu is on the move.
The number of people being hospitalized is higher than average for this time of year.
Three pediatric flu-related deaths were reported between November 25 and December 6. Children and the elderly are at the most vulnerable ages for flu sickness.
Flu season runs between October and May. It peaks in midwinter, around February.
Each year, flu kills 24,000 Americans, according to the CDC. Everyone over 6 years of age should get a flu vaccine.
It's especially important for children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions, and people over the age of 65.
If you get sick, the CDC recommends that you stay home until at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, to avoid spreading flu to others.