Flu cases reach record high in St. Louis County

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"It takes approximately two weeks following vaccination to develop maximum protection against flu".

But the holiday season is over and it's time to get back to reality.

Ten people in California have died so far this winter from influenza, evidence that health professionals' warnings are valid: this flu is hitting harder and earlier than it has in years.

With flu season in full swing, Lewis County and other areas across Washington have seen an uptick in the number of people with influenza in recent weeks.

But the illness rate is now "widespread" throughout the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta. Researchers say it's the result of a mutation in the strain as the vaccine was being developed, making it anywhere from 15 to 30 percent effective against the strain. Puerto Rico and 13 states reported regional activity.

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The surge in cases has been flooding local emergency rooms with respiratory-related ailments, several doctors, nurses and health administrators said.

Washington state, which tracks the stats a bit differently, confirmed 20 influenza deaths at state labs and found 16 influenza-like outbreaks at long term care facilities in the 2017-2018 season as of December 23.

The good news, according to health experts, is that it's not too late to reduce your risk by getting a flu shot.

Harmon said most people with the flu have mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs.

Only shots are advised this year.

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In spite of this unpredictability, Harmon said the vaccine can still be effective in preventing or lessening the symptoms of a particular flu viruses.

At the end of past year there had been three deaths due to flu and 16 cases of flu requiring admissions to an intensive care unit.

The flu may not sound like a big deal, but if you've ever had it, you know it can make you feel miserable.

Sudden fever, runny nose and sneezing. The vaccine is made from an inactivated virus.

"You should get a shot", she said. That means washing your hands, using a hand sanitizer, and coughing or sneezing into a tissue or the inside of your arm. Some pharmacies have also reported shortages of the Tamiflu medication.

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She said the CDC recommends treatments for high risk patients begin within two days of illness onset to achieve the best results.

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