Influenza is sending thousands of coughing, feverish Americans to hospital emergency rooms across the country, according to experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta.
However, it is possible to minimize the outbreak and prevent the virus from making you miserable this flu season.
The CDC noted that lab tests show that this year's flu vaccine is providing protection against the circulating flu virus strains.
"So far this year, the 1999-2000 flu vaccine is well matched to the viruses circulating the United States," concluded a CDC report released Friday.
According to the latest agency figures, as of Jan. 1, epidemiologists have identified cases of flu in 35 states and the District of Columbia, with "widespread" number of cases recorded in Colorado, Iowa, Montana, South Dakota, Utah, and Washington state.
The flu season also seems to be gaining in intensity -- the CDC noted that the two weeks ending Jan. 1 were the first time this season that the number of flu-related visits to clinics and hospitals topped normal levels.
The best way of preventing flu is to get a flu shot.
According to the CDC, the vaccine should prevent illness "in approximately 70 to 90 percent of healthy persons younger than age 65 years."
The vaccine is thought to be about 80 percent effective in preventing death from influenza among elderly nursing home residents and others at highest risk.
Ideally, individuals should receive their shot prior to the beginning of the flu season (October or November).
The CDC, however, urges that persons at high risk for serious flu complications to get their shots as soon as possible if they have not already done so.