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Flu season strikes early, and in some places, hard

  

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  1. 1. Have you received the flu vaccine for this year?



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NEW YORK — From the Rocky Mountains to New England, hospitals are swamped with people with flu symptoms. Some medical centers are turning away visitors or making them wear face masks, and one Pennsylvania hospital set up a tent outside its ER to deal with the feverish patients.

Flu season in the U.S. has struck early and, in many places, hard.

While flu normally doesn't blanket the country until late January or February, it is already widespread in more than 40 states, with about 30 of them reporting some major hot spots. On Thursday, health officials blamed the flu for the deaths of 20 children so far.

Whether this will be considered a bad season by the time it has run its course in the spring remains to be seen.

"Those of us with gray hair have seen worse," said Dr. William Schaffner, a flu expert at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

The evidence so far points to a moderate season, Schaffner and others say. It looks bad in part because last year was unusually mild and because the main strain of influenza circulating this year tends to make people sicker and really lay them low.

All the flu activity has led some to question whether this year's flu shot is working. While health officials are still analyzing the vaccine, early indications are that it's about 60 percent effective, which is in line with what's been seen in other years.

The vaccine is reformulated each year, based on experts' best guess of which strains of the virus will predominate. This year's vaccine is well-matched to what's going around. The government estimates that between a third and half of Americans have gotten the vaccine.

On average, about 24,000 Americans die each flu season, according to the CDC. That's an estimate — the agency does not keep a running tally of adult flu deaths each year, only for children. Some state health departments do keep count, and they've reported dozens of flu deaths so far.

Flu usually peaks in midwinter. Symptoms can include fever, cough, runny nose, head and body aches and fatigue. Some people also suffer vomiting and diarrhea, and some develop pneumonia or other severe complications.

Most people with flu have a mild illness and can help themselves and protect others by staying home and resting. But people with severe symptoms should see a doctor. They may be given antiviral drugs or other medications to ease symptoms.

Flu vaccinations are recommended for everyone 6 months or older. Of the 20 children killed by the flu this season, only two were fully vaccinated.

http://xfinity.comcast.net/articles/news-national/20130111/AP.US.MED.Flu.Season/?cid=hero_media

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I didn't take it this year and I've been sick for more than 2 weeks now :(


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