It's officially flu season and a few southern states are getting hit especially hard—and early—this year.
Georgia, Louisiana, and Oklahoma recently reported widespread flu cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s latest weekly update. While reported cases of the flu tend to increase around this time of year, several states—Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, and South Carolina—also revealed they're experiencing higher-than-usual flu activity as of Thanksgiving week.
"At this point, I'm prepared to say I expect an early flu season," Richard Zimmerman, a professor of family medicine at University of Pittsburgh and flu vaccine evaluator for the CDC told Popular Science.
What's more, the news revealing widespread cases in several southern states comes just after the discovery that Australia's flu vaccine, which has the same composition as the one used in the U.S., was only 10 percent effective, according to an article published by the New England Journal of Medicine. In other words, that flu vaccine you got may not protect you at all against the strains spreading across the country this fall and winter. (Still, experts say it's always better to get vaccinated than to not get vaccinated.)
To reduce your risk of catching the flu, follow these tips and guidelines from the CDC:
- Get vaccinated every year if you're 6 months or older (it's not too late to get the vaccine).
- Avoid with people who are sick or may have the flu.
- Wash your hands frequently with warm water and soap.
- Avoid touching your nose, mouth, and eyes.
- Get enough sleep every night.
(h/t Popular Science)