Jump in Florida flu cases, death and hospitalization nationwide: How to protect you and your family

We're taking action for your family's health

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. - We're still weeks away from the historical peak of the flu season, but now it appears the nation may be behind the curve as the flu is already spreading like wildfire. 

Here in Florida, the panhandle, central Florida and southern Florida are seeing the biggest jump in cases.

The issue concerning many is the fact that some got a flu shot, but still have contracted the virus. 

Breaking down the numbers, the Centers For Disease Control has tracked at least 2,257 hospitalizations and 18 deaths nationwide among just children this flu season. 

The days of people 65 and over and young kids being the ones who were the most at risk and were strongly encouraged to get a vaccine are now over. 

The CDC is recommending that everyone get vaccinated this year and no, its not too late! 

Getting vaccinated each year provides the best protection against influenza throughout the flu season. 

The train being seen a lot this year is that of H3N2.

The good news is, this year's vaccine was made from an H3N2 flu like virus, with each vaccine containing three different viruses, giving the vaccinated individual even more protection. 

But its not full proof if you come in contact with another strain. 

It's getting so bad that some cities, like Cleveland and Boston, are reporting that hospitals are restricting visitors for fear of contamination.

"We are evaluating whether we are going to need to take other special measures such as screening visitors to the institution, screening employees as measure to try and control, or better understand the volume of influenza in the hospital," says Dr. Kenneth E. Sands of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts.

So does it mean that this year's vaccine isn't working because the outbreak is the worst the nation has seen in years? 

"No, it doesn't mean that at all," says Dr. Robert Glatter of Lenox Hill Hospital on Manhattan's Upper East Side.  "Generally, in proportion to the population, a number of people will still contract the flu virus even though they've been vaccinated."

Doctors say the vaccine is still your best defense though.  While you may still contract the virus, it may not be as severe.  Physicians also point out that the vaccine takes about two weeks to take full effect in the body.  The CDC is suggesting those who have severe flu symptoms or are at risk of serious flu-related symptoms to also think about taking an anti-viral medication.

In addition to the vaccine, be sure to do all the things right to keep yourself clean. 

Washing your hands constantly, keeping your hands away from your face, taking a shower immediately when you get home, and remembering that you could still infect someone with the flu seven days after your symptoms are gone, so be sure to STAY HOME if you think you may have it.

To pinpoint the flu impact in your specific area, visit http://www.doh.state.fl.us/Disease_ctrl/immune/flu/index.html and to find a place you can get your flu shot visit http://www.hillscountyhealth.org/

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