(CBS) Health officials say this could be a bad flu season. This year’s flu strain can be dangerous, if not deadly.
There are already cases of influenza across the country. In fact, some schools in Tennessee are closed for the rest of the week because of a flu outbreak.
If you haven't had your flu shot yet, now is the time. Health officials say this is the earliest start of the flu season in nearly a decade.
The Centers for Disease Control says in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas are all reporting higher than normal numbers of cases.
Dr. Thomas Frieden the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, “We usually see flu begin to have an uptick 4-6 weeks from now, so seeing it this early could well predict not only a longer but a more severe flu season.”
Federal health officials say the most common strain this year tends to make people sicker than usual but they are encouraged because this year's vaccine seems to protect against it.
An estimated 112 million Americans – more than a third of the nation – have already received flu shots this season.
The vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months or older.
People who are very young, very old or who have health problems are at the greatest risk but the flu can knock anyone out of work or school for a week or more.
“High fever, sore throat, a cough and body aches those are the main symptoms,” Dr. Jahangir Rahman an internist says of this year’s flu symptoms.
This year's strain is particularly hard on the elderly but 70-year-old Noel Jeffrey isn't concerned.
“I've always been into preventative medicine so I get the flu shot every single year and I never get the flu,” Jeffrey says.
He says there's no reason everyone doesn't get vaccinated.
A lot of places are offering flu shots, such as your local pharmacy.
For a list of places on our website that offer the flu vaccine, click here.