Flu outbreak declared a national epidemic

January 11, 2013 3:46:33 PM PST
The Centers for Disease Control has declared the flu a national epidemic.

Local health departments say the virus arrived a few weeks earlier than normal this year.

The CDC says the flu is now widespread in 47 states, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware; up from 41 the week before.

But officials are saying the severity of the flu may have already peaked in a number of states.

20 children have already died from the flu this year, and New Jersey just reported two pediatric flu deaths Thursday, a 14-year-old boy in Ocean County in November and an 8-month-old boy in Camden in December.

The Center for Disease Control says the flu kills an average of 24,000 people a year.

The CDC held a teleconference Thursday to talk about flu activity and the vaccine.

Health officials say the flu has reached "epidemic" levels; this means it is a moderate to severe flu season.

But this should not alarm anyone. We hit flu epidemic levels every year.

We are still seeing widespread activity in our area, but they are starting to see it ease up in the South. This could mean an ease up in our area, but it is difficult to predict.

As for the flu shot, it is worth it to get one.

Government health officials say this year's flu vaccine covers 90% of the flu strains going around this season.

Overall it is 62% effective meaning if you get the shot you are 62% less likely to get the flu. It is not perfect, but the vaccine is still the best tool we have to prevent the virus.

Officials say it can still offer a lot of immunity even getting it this time of the year.

128 million doses have been distributed, although some areas are reporting shortages, so you may need to call around.

But local city and county health departments do have vaccine and are holding public flu shot clinics.

Health officials say we could see several more weeks of the flu so you should do what you can to protect yourself:
Get a flu shot
Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently
And eat healthy, exercise, get enough sleep.