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Flu Season Strikes Hard

"We are experiencing a flu season that has spiked early, but we are not done with it."

The flu is hitting earlier than usual across California, and a new website helps you track it.

Nationwide, more than 2,250 people have been hospitalized, and 18 children have died between October and December, according to a Centers for Disease Control report.

Flu cases have been rising in California since October, according to FluNearYou.org. The site run by the Boston Children's Hospital tracks users who volunteer to take weekly health surveys.

"We are experiencing a flu season that has spiked early, but we are not done with it," a Sacramento physician told CBS News.

According to the County of Riverside Department of Public Health, during the week ending Jan. 5, 8.5 percent of visits to emergency rooms across the county were related to influenza-like illnesses, which is within normal range for this time of year. During this same time period, 7.5 of deaths in the county were due, in part, to pneumonia or influenza, which is also within normal range, the department is reporting.

On Dec. 10, the County of Riverside Department of Public Health issued a statement, advising residents to get the flu vaccination.

“The flu shot is one of the most effective public health measures we have. It only takes a few moments but can be so beneficial to one’s health,” said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, Riverside County interim public health officer. “There are so many places where shots can be obtained that access to the vaccine should not be an issue.”

The vaccine that has been widely distributed appears to be a match for the influenza strain that health officials are seeing, meaning the flu shot should be effective, County of Riverside Department of Public Health officials advise.

Tens of thousands of flu shots are given each year in Riverside County and more than 112 million people have been vaccinated nationally so far, according to the CDC. Nationally, thousands of people die each year during the flu season and hundreds of thousands are hospitalized, the County of Riverside Department of Public Health reported.

According to a statement from the county agency, annual flu shots are recommended for everyone over the age of 6 months, but especially important for:

• Pregnant women;

• Children younger than 5;

• People 50 and older;

• People of any age with chronic medical conditions;

• People who live in nursing homes and other long-term facilities;

• Health care workers, household contacts and home caregivers for high risk individuals

Flu clinics are scheduled at the county’s 10 Family Care Centers, including Lake Elsinore. Flu clinic hours are 8 – 11:30 a.m. and 1 – 4 p.m. For clinics locations, call 800-720-9553 or visit www.rivco-familycarecenters.org/flu.htm

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