Flu reaches epidemic levels; widespread cases across the U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control say the flu has reached epidemic levels in the United States and the virus has already killed at least a dozen children, but health experts say it's not too late to protect yourself.

It looks like this year's flu season is going to be a rough one.  Widespread cases are being reported in 36 states, and every state will likely have flu cases in the next few weeks.

15 children have died this flu season and more deaths are likely.  Officials say they're treating the flu as a bigger public health threat than the Ebola virus.

"Most people think of the flu as the nuisance disease. You are sick for a couple days and it's over, but for many people it is a cause of hospitalization and death," said Dr. Paul Silverman with the Delaware Division of Public Health.

There has been such a big rise in flu cases that hospitals are having a difficult time keeping up with all the patients.

"I have never seen the level of, number of inpatients that we have now, as a matter of fact, I don't recall ever having even 10 or more inpatients at any given time with influenza as inpatients," said Dr. Lee Norman with the University of Kansas Hospital.

One reason the flu season is so bad this year is the vaccine is not as effective against the most common strain of the virus, but health experts still recommend getting the flu shot and say it's not too late.

"Even when the strain is not a perfect match, it still gives protection," said Nassau County Health Commissioner, Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein.

Dr. David Massey of Cone Health Kernersville Urgent Care added, "A lot of people, when they come in with the flu and they are feeling awful, they say I wish I had gotten my flu shot this year."

The CDC says the people most at risk for the flu are children under the age of 5 and adults 65 and over.

Online: www.cdc.gov/flu
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