Flu cases on the rise in Southwest Florida

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The trend "may be an indication of a more severe influenza season", according to the Florida Department of Health's weekly flu report.

The Irish Health Service Executive (HSE) said a "small number" of people had died in the last fortnight after contracting the H3N2 strain, which was blamed for one of Australia's worst ever flu outbreaks a year ago.

People who haven't had a flu shot yet need to, Pacheco said.

West Virginia, Kentucky, and OH are among 36 states reporting widespread flu activity.

Healthy adults may experience a more severe case of flu.

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"When the flu is widespread, if it looks like the flu, it probably is the flu", Dr. Michael Kilkenny with the Cabel-Huntington Health Department said. "So ou can potentially separate the symptoms from a common cold, but it's true that there are a number of patients who have a milder case that may be indistinguishable from a cold, but they still have influenza".

Because of the severity of this flu season, Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz is restricting visitors to only those over the age of 15, with only one visitor per patient.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta reports flu cases climbed sharply the third week of December. The first death was in a child under the age of 18.

San Jose locksmith technician Rich Acosta says he got the flu a week ago.

"We often see a season last three months, so there's still time to do it", Dr. Richard Zimmerman, a physician at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, told Newsweek.

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The seven deaths in the week ending December 30 were nearly double the previous weekly high this season and included the second child to die of the flu, officials said. More serious complications may include bronchitis, ear infections and pneumonia.

The CDC has not issued a report yet on the effectiveness of the flu vaccine this year but Australia, which experiences its winter flu season before the USA, has seen a 33 percent effectiveness with the vaccine, Roth said.

The agency also advised sick people to stay home until their fever subsides for at least 24 hours, and stressed the importance of hand-washing.

"Get your flu shot now - it is not too late", Gambineri, with the health department in Tallahassee, said.

Vaishampayan has not conceded that this year's flu vaccine is ineffective.

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One flu shot should last the whole season and typically takes about two weeks to become effective. The vaccine also is available at many commercial pharmacies, including at CVS, Walgreens and Walmart; and grocery stores such as Publix and Winn Dixie.

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