WASHINGTON, D.C. (NEXSTAR) – Federal health officials said this year’s flu season is already as bad as last year’s, and it could get worse.
So far, nearly 3,000 people have died from the flu, and that worries doctors because we’re still two months away from when flu cases typically peak.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease, has a blunt warning.
“Flu can kill you, flu can make you very sick,” Fauci said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 6.4 million people were infected as of last week. Nearly 3,000 people, including 27 children, have died and more than 55,000 people were hospitalized.
“This year, we are on a trajectory that looks like it’s right tracking with two of the worst years we’ve had, 2017-18 and 2014-15,” Fauci said.
What worries experts like Fauci the most is that, statistically, we haven’t even reached the height of flu season.
This map shows how widespread the disease is across the country, with states in dark red reporting the highest number of cases.
“We have not yet peaked for sure,” Fauci said. “We generally peak late in the winter.”
The good news? It’s not too late to get a flu shot, especially for those at higher risk of the disease, like kids, the elderly or people with chronic medical conditions.
“The benefits of influenza vaccines are very clear,” Fauci said. “Either you protect yourself from getting initially infected or, even if you do get infected, it can prevent you from progressing to serious disease.”
The vaccine is widely available in pharmacies and doctors’ offices. Fauci said it’s your best line of defense.
“If you have not gotten vaccinated, you should get vaccinated, it is not too late to get vaccinated,” he said.
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