With the number of flu -related deaths rising fast in California, state health officials warn that this could be a very severe flu season. It's a prediction in line with what many local infectious disease specialists are seeing among their patients. In California, 45 people have died so far this flu season, including two babies.
"The influenza virus is very smart and it tends to change with each season," said Dr. Sanjeet Dadwal, with the City of Hope Medical Center.
We first saw the H1N1 virus in 2009. Dadwal says once again, it's the dominant strain.
"This virus particularly affected the young people more as compared to the older individuals. This year, also, we're seeing that the very young and young adults are being affected disproportionately with more severe disease," said Dadwal.
The H1N1 is a match for this year's flu vaccine. So he encourages everyone six months and older to get the flu shot. The flu is also hitting hard amongst younger, healthier people. Yet they're also the ones less likely to get the vaccine. In fact, the CDC says last year, only one-third of Americans ages 16-64 got the vaccine.
"You may have a notion that 'I'm healthy, so maybe I won't be affected.' I think that is wrong. People should get vaccinated because this is a vaccine preventable disease," said Dadwal.
There's still time to get protected before the rest of the wave hits.
"We see the season start a little later as compared to the rest of the country. We are in the beginning of the flu season, which can last for a couple of months, so it is not late to get a flu shot," said Dadwal.
Keep in mind that even if you get the flu shot, you may still get the flu. But it will be a much less severe version and you will be sick for less time than if you hadn't gotten the vaccine. The vaccine also takes about two weeks to fully protect you.