CDC declares flu epidemic; high flu activity in 22 states

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- From the sneezing to the coughing, flu season is in high gear and it is already being declared an epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control.

The CDC reported there was high flu activity in 22 states. With the flu vaccine less effective against this year's strain, flu-related hospitalizations are increasing.

"It starts in the southeast, the midwestand then it spreads out from there. We've just had the holiday vacation, people spread the flu as they travel around," said Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News chief health and medical editor.

In Milwaukee, there were more than 220 hospitalizations, which is more than double the number at this time last year.

Other than calling a doctor, there is also a growing practice called telemedicine, which means patients get on their computer or tablet, log in to a virtual waiting room and connect with a physician.

"Most people can take their temperature at home, we can see that they're breathing ok, that they're not in any acute distress and then we can treat them the same way that I would treat them if they came to see me in person," said Jennifer Mcclendon, a physician's assistant.

Health officials said people in the highest risk groups for severe flu include those older than 64, children under 5, pregnant women and people with medical conditions.

Besser advices people should not wait long to begin treatment because anti-flu medications only work if they are started in the first two days.

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