Flu season is officially off to an early start this year, according to researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Epidemic Intelligence Service.
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The team of public health experts analyzed national data on flu trends and warned in a report published today that "several influenza activity indicators were higher than is typically seen for this time of year."
The amount of flu activity recorded at this part of the season is the highest it has been in six years, according to data released by the CDC.
The researchers added, however, that the predominant strain of the flu virus that has been spreading this year is one of the strains targeted in this year's flu vaccine. While they noted concerns that the current method of producing most flu vaccines, which involves the use of chicken eggs, is not perfect, they emphasized the importance of getting a flu shot in order to prevent the spread of the disease.
"Although influenza vaccine effectiveness can range widely from season to season, influenza vaccination is the most effective currently available method to prevent influenza and its complications," the report stated. "However, less than half of the U.S. population has been vaccinated in recent influenza seasons."
Latest @CDCMMWR report says the majority of the tested flu viruses since October 1, 2017 remain similar to the recommended 2017-18 flu vaccine components. https://t.co/T6oevyccPs pic.twitter.com/0out4zPc5t— CDC (@CDCgov) December 7, 2017
While the severity and timing of flu outbreaks vary year to year, peak flu activity in the U.S. usually occurs during December through February, the researchers added.
"It is difficult to predict when influenza activity will peak for the current season; however, influenza activity will increase in the coming weeks," the report stated.
The CDC's report observing heightened flu activity so far this season comes shortly after a team of international medical experts warned that the upcoming flu season in the U.S. could be a bad one, citing preliminary data from Australia, where the flu season is waning.
The CDC states on its website that an annual flu vaccine is the "the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses."
In addition, the CDC recommends avoiding close contact with sick people, limiting your contact with others when you feel sick and covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, in order to prevent the spread of germs.
Other actions the CDC recommends to stop the spread of the seasonal flu include washing your hands often with soap and water; avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth; and disinfecting surfaces that may have been contaminated with flu germs.