Health experts urge flu vaccine as number of cases increase

Sioux Falls, S.D. - The dreaded flu season is officially here and it’s here in a big way. Officials said the amount of flu activity recorded at this part of the season is the highest it has been in six years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said since October, more than 7,000 cases of influenza have already been confirmed in the U.S. More than 5,000 of those cases were because of Influenza A and more than 1,000 were because of Influenza B. The CDC said influenza activity was low during October, but has been continuing to increase since November and even though the flu vaccine isn't full proof, officials said it can be much more dangerous not to get a shot.

“Influenza can spike anytime during these winter months,” Sanford Family Medicine Physician, Kayla Norenberg said.

The coughing and sneezing is getting worse.

“Anytime you have a lot of folks in a small confined space you're more apt to pick up on those germs. Especially when you're touching different surfaces and there's multiple people coming through and using those surfaces. You know you're likely to pick up that virus or that illness,” Sioux Falls School District Health Services Coordinator, Molly Satter said.

As the number of flu cases continue to increase, health officials are urging people to get the flu shot.

“We offer the flu vaccine to middle and high school students this year throughout the month of October and then we also offered it to our staff. We’re either getting them vaccinated at school or they're getting into the clinics to be vaccinated so that's a good thing wherever that happens,” Satter said.

”The flu isn’t fun. I plan on getting my flu shot, but it’s like one of those things that I always plan to do but never really do,” Sioux Falls Resident, Darien Torok said.

CDC researchers said high levels of flu activity are already being seen in several states, but officials don’t know exactly when the season will peak.

“Sometimes it's early such as November, December but sometimes it's later such as February,” Norenberg said.

They said no matter how effective the vaccine ends up being, getting the shot is the best option.

“Each year it can differ just because just how the influenza vaccination is made. They predict which strain is going to be circulating and they do their best to try and predict accurately. So it can fluctuate quite a bit. I believe last year was about 30 percent or so. There's no way to predict exactly what's going to be circulating,” Norenberg said.

The CDC said between 9.2 million and 35.6 million people in the U.S. get sick with the flu each year. During the 2015, 2016 season, 5 million flu illnesses were prevented by the flu shot. Its National Influenza Vaccination week, so now is the time to get that flu shot if you haven't already. Also, health officials said practice proper hand hygiene and stay home if you are sick.