SALISBURY, Md.- Doctors are saying it is better to be safe than sorry because we could be in for a pretty rough flu season.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that an early start to the flu season is bad news.
Health officials noted that the effects of the flu are being felt across the country and catching it could even be fatal.
The CDC reported that 41 states are already reporting widespread flu cases. Approximately 2,200 people have been hospitalized and at least 18 children have died from the virus, the CDC noted.
Officials said the H3N2 virus is circulating and has been linked to severe flu seasons in year's past.
On Wednesday there was certainly no shortage of flu vaccines at the Wicomico County Health Department in Salisbury.
Olivia Butler, who is an immunization supervisor at the department, said the WCHD is making sure that there are enough of those vaccines for just about everyone to help protect against the virus.
"It's hard to predict how bad it's going to be," Butler said. "I can say that it has gotten off to an earlier start than in the past years, so it could have the potential to be worse than what we have seen."
Dr. James Cockey, who is the department's physician deputy health officer, said that most people should have gotten the vaccine back in September. However, he said it still not too late.
"It's still possible to get some protection," Cockey noted. "Although it takes two weeks for it to attain its full degree of protection, it's worth getting for people who haven't had the influenza vaccine for this year."
Butler recommends looking out for common symptoms that may indicate you have the flu.
"People have fevers sore throat, cough, runny nose, body aches, they can also have nausea, vomiting, diarrhea with that," Butler explained.
Cockey said that this year many emergency rooms and doctors' offices, including his own, have been especially busy with people coming in with the sickness.
He also added that it is not antibiotics that those people are coming in to get.
"They are often getting symptomatic treatment and they are being checked for whether they are sick enough to go into the hospital. Like whether there is evidence of pneumonia on top of the influenza," Cockey said.
Both Butler and Cockey suggested taking necessary precautions that could help prevent the spread of the flu virus. That includes washing your hands, wiping down frequently used surfaces and staying at home from work or school as soon as you feel the symptoms appearing.
Cockey said the widespread flu should die down by spring.
The Wicomico County Health Department will offer flu shots on Tuesdays and Thursdays by appointment only.
In the mean time, for more information about the virus such as a tracking map, and prevention tips, visit the CDC's website at: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/.
Thursday, June 20 2013 7:44 AM EDT2013-06-20 11:44:14 GMT
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