COLLIER COUNTY, Fla - Flu season is underway and it's the earliest start in nearly a decade and this year national health officials predict it could be worse than previous years.
That's because the primary strain that is circulating is one that tends to cause more severe illness.
Deb Millsap with the Collier County Health Department says, "it's usually not a problem for most of us, but if we're frail and elderly or medically frail in any way it can require extra medical care or hospitalization.
Millsap says so far flu season in Collier County has been mild, but in Lee County, health officials report they've already seen increases. The week before Thanksgiving they had 70 confirmed cases of flu and the week of Thanksgiving they had 127 confirmed cases.
Health officials say the best defense is getting the flu shot.
Hloy Demetriades of Massachusetts says she has gotten her flu shot every fall for years. "I feel that it protects me, my health, keeps me from getting colds. So far it has been very successful for me and my husband."
Others haven't been as lucky. Phyllis Durante says, "I have been sick three times."
The CDC says more than a third of Americans have been vaccinated and so far, the vaccine is well matched to the strains of flu and even if yo have received your shot, health officials say there's more you can do.
"We want people to take these illnesses seriously," says Millsap. Always practice good hand washing and respiratory etiquette and all the things we need to do to keep ourselves health."
If you haven't gotten your flu shot yet, it's not too late. Local pharmacies like CVS are still offering the shots daily and since flu season doesn't usually peak until February, health officials say there's still time.
With that being said, it takes about two weeks for you body to develop immunity after getting the vaccine, so with the holidays coming up, the soon you get a flu shot, the better.