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This year’s flu season has arrived early

Federal health officials report an early uptick in flu cases in the South

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Photo (c) Tero Vesalainen - Getty Images
Health officials say the 2019-20 flu season is off to an unusually early start. For three consecutive weeks, flu-like illnesses have accounted for a significant percentage of doctor visits, signaling the official start of flu season. 

CDC officials said Friday that there have already been 1.7 million flu illnesses, 16,000 hospitalizations, and 900 flu-related deaths across the U.S. The highest levels of flu activity have been reported in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Nevada, South Carolina, and Texas.

Experts say the early start to the winter flu season means it will likely hit its peak earlier than it has during previous seasons. However, it’s hard to make predictions about flu seasons. The flu virus currently dominating in the south is the Flu B strain, which isn’t usually active until March or April. 

Health officials urge consumers to vaccinate

The CDC recommends getting a flu vaccine as soon as possible in order to allow the body one to two weeks to build up full protection to the illness. This year’s vaccine has been reformulated to better protect against the B-strain of the flu. 

While there’s still a risk of getting the flu even if you get a flu shot, health officials say getting a flu shot can reduce the risk of complications from the flu, like pneumonia or hospitalization. 

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