We're already seeing an early start of the flu season here in Southern California. The latest CDC data shows that in 30 states nationwide, doctors are seeing unusually high flu activity - the highest numbers they've seen in 10 years.
Southern California doctors say they're already seeing high volume and the time protect yourself is right now.
Grace Haro of Pacoima is getting a flu shot this year. But during most winters, she tried to avoid the vaccine because she believed it made her sick.
Doctors say some people may have a mild reaction to the vaccine, but Dr. Elijah Wasson of Facey Medical Group says that in reality, the vaccine cannot give you the flu.
Haro said, "I got the flu shot, and three days later, I ended up getting really sick and I thought it was because of that."
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The flu vaccine just happens to be offered during the peak of cold season and that may explain the coincidence. Wasson said he's already seeing lots of flu cases.
The CDC says California is reporting widespread flu cases with states on the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico seeing increasing flu activity, which is unusually high for this time of year.
Two of the circulating strains are ones we've seen before -- influenza A strains of H3N2 and H1N1.
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"The most vulnerable populations are the very young such as infants," Wasson said. "And the very elderly among us as well as pregnant women. These would be considered the highest risk populations."
To put things into perspective, Wasson said in a good year, 10 million Americans are afflicted with the flu. In a bad year, it would be 60 million. It's too early to know how this season is going to go, but it's important to be prepared.
"Even in years when the match isn't perfect, there's still a lot of reasons to get the flu vaccine ," Wasson said. "Symptoms are going to be less severe even in a year when the vaccine isn't a great match."
This year, Haro is finally heeding her doctor's advice.
"I have to. He's my doctor. He's guiding me, so I have to trust him," she said.
Wasson said, "At this point, since it only takes two weeks to get full immunity after receiving the vaccine, there's still a lot of time and a lot of protection to buy yourself by getting the vaccine now."
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Flu season arrives early for much of US, including here in SoCal
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