Even though doctors don’t anticipate flu season to hit its peak until January, health experts say it could hit at any time and are warning people to get their flu shots early.
The Chicago Department of Public Health is urging residents to get their flu shots now.
"The influenza vaccine actually takes two weeks to actually provide protection so getting it now is great," said Julie Morita, commissioner for the Chicago Department of Public Health.
Experts warn that even when people who are typically healthy get the flu, they put others who are more fragile at risk.
"Flu is a very dangerous disease," said Manijeh Ghafouri, Minuteclinic practice manager for Illinois
Last year, Centers for Disease Control experts said the flu shot wasn’t as effective as it should be after a new strain of influenza started circulating, but experts said even a less effective vaccine could prevent hospitalizations and deaths, particularly among young people and children.
This year's vaccine, however, is different, according to Morita.
"The vaccines that are available this year made a change and so the strain that caused this last year will be covered this year," she said.
Flu can be a serious illness, particularly for young children, senior citizens and those with such chronic conditions as asthma, heart disease or diabetes. On average thousands die each year from the flu, a number that can fluctuate depending on which strain is circulating. The CDC has estimated from a low of 3,000 deaths to a high of 49,000 between the 1976-1977 and 2006-2007 seasons.
The CDC recommends that you get a vaccine every year even when the viruses the vaccine protects against have not changed. Your immune protection from the vaccination will decline over time.
Symptoms for influenza include a fever, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, cough, headache, and a runny or stuffy nose.