The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that this year's flu season is expected to be one of the worst the country has seen in 10 years. Not even at its peak yet, the season “is stacking up to be moderate to severe,” Tom Skinner, a spokesperson for the CDC, said.
The CDC explains that each year, an average of 20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized because of flu-related complications. Influenza causes more hospitalizations among young children than any other vaccine-preventable disease. The single best way to protect against seasonal flu and its potential severe complications is for children to get a seasonal influenza vaccine each year. Flu vaccination is recommended for all children aged 6 months and older. Making healthy choices at school and at home can help prevent the flu and spreading flu to others.
As of Tuesday this week, 41 states have reported "widespread outbreaks." States such as Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota and New York have been particularly hard-hit.
Earlier this week, The Huffington Post reported that overcrowded emergency rooms in Chicago, unable to cope with the influx of flu patients, have recently been forced to turn people away. Julie Morita, medical director for the Chicago Department of Public Health's immunization program, told DNAinfo.com Chicago that the number of flu cases in the city is growing.
On Wednesday, Boston mayor Thomas Menino declared a "public health emergency because of a sharp rise" in flu cases across the city," NBC News reports. Seven hundred confirmed cases have already been reported in Boston since the season began in October.
Michigan residents, too, have been feeling the sting of the flu outbreak. According to the Detroit Free Press, at least three children have died, and 285 confirmed cases have been reported in the state as of Jan. 3.
In New York, where at least one child has died, flu cases are reportedly "skyrocketing." According to New York Daily News, there have already been more than 15,000 flu cases reported this season.
Dr. Marc Siegel, author and associate professor of medicine at NYU, told Fox News that the flu season will not peak until the end of the month or in February. Though people who get flu shots may not be 100 percent safe from catching the infection, Siegel advises those who have yet to be vaccinated to do so right away.
- Get a flu shot. It's easy and inexpensive to get the flu shot.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue away after use and wash your hands. If a tissue is not available, cover your mouth and nose with your sleeve, not your hand.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way.