The flu epidemic continues to grow in this country, with regions like New York and Boston declaring influenza emergencies.

According to the CDC, influenza is widespread in 48 states, with new fatalities reported daily. Additionally, more than 5,000 hospitalizations for confirmed flu cases have been documented throughout the nation. In San Diego, flu rates are climbing as well, with the number of flu associated deaths reaching 14. The elderly generally are the hardest hit, with 90 percent of all flu deaths occurring in people over age 65.

This year’s flu season arrived early — with the dominant flu strain more virulent than normal. While we are battling the worst flu outbreak in more than a decade, there are ways to take action and prevent sickness. According the CDC, the three key measures are:

– Get a yearly flu vaccine. This is the most important means of fighting flu. Everyone six moths and older should get the vaccine. Children younger than 6 months are at high risk of serious flu illness, but are too young to be vaccinated. People who care for them should be vaccinated instead.

– Take everyday measures to present the spread of germs. Stay home if you have flu-like symptoms (fever, cough, stuff or runny nose, vomiting; avoid contact with infected persons; cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough; wash your hands often and avoid touching your moth, nose, nose and eyes. Carefully clean and disinfect areas that may be contaminated with germs.

– If your doctor prescribes them, take antiviral drug. These can make illness milder and shorten its length. Antiviral drugs are different from antibiotics, and work only when given before or shortly after exposure. They are prescription only (pills, liquid or an inhaled powder) and not available over-the-counter.

For more details on the flu epidemic, visit the CDC’s website at //www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/preventing.htm

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