To ease the burden on crowded emergency rooms, health officials urged people without severe symptoms to try other avenues to get care, such as primary care doctors, urgent care facilities or even calling their doctor's office to see if they can be triaged by phone.
Antiviral medications, like over-the-counter Tamiflu, are recommended to combat the daily symptoms of a flu and all health providers recommend annual vaccinations.
"Influenza is a significant threat to public health, and we are strongly encouraging anyone who has not already gotten the flu vaccine to get one immediately", said Dr. Zucker.
State officials are not mandated to report flu deaths among those 65 and older. So many older people die of the flu each year that monitoring deaths under 65 reveals more about the severity of the flu season, they say.
"We have not seen an increase in flu activity this early in the winter in the past five years", said Department of Health Secretary Lynn Gallagher in the NMDOH's January 4 report. When H3 viruses are predominant, we tend to have a worse flu season with more hospitalizations and more death.
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While the Centers for Disease Control is calling this year's flu season an epidemic, doctors with the CDC said every flu season is normally an epidemic.
People with flu symptoms should seek medical advice. A 2017 study showed the flu vaccine can significantly reduce a child's risk of dying from influenza.
Beth Hardy, spokeswoman at Gwinnett Medical Center, said they have an adequate supply of medicine to fight the flu, but they also have companies on standby should they need to refill in a hurry.
There's a difference between an active flu season - when a large number of people get sick - and a severe season, when the numbers of people hospitalized for flu or who die from the infection are unusually high.
Last year there were nine flu-related deaths, the previous year there were seven and three years ago there were 28, according to Nydam. "The season has started early and is probably peaking right about now", he said. This should include avoiding going to work, school and other public places while ill, and limiting visits to people in nursing homes or hospitals. "It's not too late". "There is nothing out of the ordinary in terms of the type of influenza that we're seeing", Harris said.