ORLANDO, Fla. - Health officials in Central Florida -- and across the country -- are scrambling as they try to stop a major flu outbreak.
It's killed at least 18 people nationwide and sickened hundreds of thousands more. The outbreak has forced the mayor to issue a state of emergency for Boston.
Local 6 is learning that it is one of the worst flu seasons in a decade and it is growing in Central Florida.
"Right now were seeing it about a month early right now," said Centra Care's Dr. Tim Hendricks. "We are also seeing record numbers of influenza patients here at Centra Care."
Dr. Hendricks says at Centra Care, peak season meant 150 visits a week for the flu, he says this season they are averaging 600 visits a week.
"There is just a lot of buzz right now about the flu," said Dr. Hendricks.
Pharmacists say they have seen more and more people to fill Tamiflu prescriptions, an anti-viral medication that kills the virus.
Tammy Connors of Sanford told Local 6 she has been sick with the flu this week.
"Body aches, chills, then hot, and sweats, couldn't sleep, horrible cough," said Connors.
On Thursday. she took her two boys to the Centra Care in Sanford.
"We called their pediatrician go get flu shots there, and they don't even have anymore," said Connors. "They said they're completely out of flu shots and they won't be getting anymore, so they sent us here."
Numbers from the Centers for Disease Control website show that Florida is one of 29 states that is showing "high" flu like activity this year.
In the state, 20 counties are showing moderate flu-like activity, which is the second highest level. Those counties include Orange, Brevard, Osceola and Seminole.
A flu advisory report from the CDC, which goes through December 23 to 29, says that 41 states had widespread influenza activity, an increase of 10 states from the previous week.
Numbers have not been this high since 2009 when the H1N1 pandemic was under way.
Flu season is unpredictable and people throughout the area and nationwide saw it starting in late November, earlier than usual.
Clerks at Walgreens say they have seen a number of people coming in for over-the-counter medicines, but doctors said those medications only help with the symptons, which include fever or feeling feverish, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue. Some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
Doctors at Centra Care stress that the flu can often be confused with the common cold. The key difference is that the flu often includes fever and a miserable feeling.
You can get a flu vaccine for about $25 at urgent care centers and local pharmacies. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu.
The vaccines are tailored to the year's strains so it allows it to be more effective.
The CDC will issue an update on the flu situation Friday.
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