By: Ed Payne
(CNN) - There's a lot of sniffling, sneezing and coughing going on across the country. Health experts say flu season is here and it's off to a strong start.
Get a flu shot. That's the message from health experts at the CDC who say this is the earliest start to the flu season in about a decade. Forty-one states are reporting widespread flu cases. We know right now through our surveillance system that more people are going to the doctor and more people are being hospitalized for flu this year than they were last year.
The CDC says more that 2200 people have been hospitalized because of the flu and 18 children have died. This is a group of people, children, who can be particularly vulnerable to influenza so we strongly recommend that eligible children be vaccinated every year, this year, especially so. Getting a flu shot doesn't guarantee you won't get the flu but it does offer protection against the virus. This year they're saying about 60-percent effectiveness, not 100 percent like previous years but it's better than nothing. And getting the shot won't give you the flu.
When you get a flu shot you're getting a dead virus so it can't give you the flu but what it's doing is activating your immune system, that's what it's supposed to do, it's teaching your immune system to recognize that virus as a problem so when it sees it again it attacks it. Doctors point out that it takes 2 weeks for a flu shot to take full effect so it's important to get vaccinated early in the season.
The CDC officials say the H3N2 virus is one of those circulating the United States. That virus has been linked to severe flu seasons in the past.