There is lots of sniffling, sneezing, and coughing going on across the country. Health experts say flu season is here and it's off to a strong start.
Get a flu shot. That's the message from health experts at the CDC who say this is the earliest start to a flu season in about a decade. Forty one states are reporting widespread flu cases.
"We know right now through our surveillance system that more people are going to the doctor and more people are being hospitalized for flu this year than they were last year," said Dr. Michael Jhung with the Centers for Disease Control.
The CDC says more than 22 hundred people have been hospitalized because of the flu and 18 children have died. "This is a group of people, children, who can be particularly vulnerable to influenza so we strongly recommend that eligible children be vaccinated every year. This year, especially so," said Dr. Jhung.
Getting a flu shot doesn't guarantee you won't get the flu, but it does offer protection against the virus.
"This year, they're saying about 60 percent effectiveness. It's not 100 percent like previous years but it's better than nothing," said CNN medical analyst Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
And getting the shot won't give you the flu. "When you get a flu shot, you're getting a dead virus so it can't give you the flu, but what it's doing is activating your immune system. That's what it's supposed to do. It's teaching your immune system to recognize that virus as a problem so when it sees it again, it attacks it," said Dr. Gupta.
Doctors point out that it takes two weeks for a flu shot to take full effect so it's important to get vaccinated early in the season.