TODAY | December 04, 2012
>> an important health alert being issued by the centers for disease control . the flu season is off to its earliest start in a decade, and it could be a bad one. tom costello is in the e.r. at bethesda general hospital in maryland. good morning to you.
>> reporter: good morning, savannah. it's important to remember who is most at risk during the flu season . it's the elderly, very young and women who are pregnant. each year 200,000 people are hospitalized with the flu, but fortunately more people are getting the vaccine than ever before. in dallas, amy bardes is sick and miserable with all the symptoms of the flu.
>> the chest pain , the body aches, it hurts. i just can't get comfortable.
>> reporter: a quick test does show does have influenza type "a"a " "aq".
>> i thought i had pneumonia because everything hurt in my chest when i called.
>> reporter: flu season is off to an early start this year. already suspected cases have jumped in five southern states , alabama, louisiana, mississippi, tennessee and texas. one of the earliest starts in ten years. and the strain of flu that is circulating is one that tends to make people quite sick, especially the elderly. flu symptoms typically include a fever, severe aches, runny nose and congestion, a cough, even vomiting. children and the elderly are a particular risk of dehydration. already in north carolina two people have died.
>> you catch the flu. you will be down for the count for at least a week. that means kids can't go to day care , can't go to school, you probably can't go to work
>> reporter: flu virus spreads more easily in the winter when the air is drier. the good news, more than a third of the population has already been vaccinated. 112 million people. and there's plenty of vaccine which appears to be a good match for the strain of flu.
>> my daughter is sick, and just today i was feeling like maybe i'm going to get sick so something i'm concerned about, definitely.
>> reporter: but amy bardes get her vaccine so why did she get the flu.
>> reporter: doctors caution it normally takes two weeks after you receive the vaccine for the immunity to kick in and there are no guarantees.
>> every year the virus changes or mutates, so we make the vaccine based on what we think we're going to see for this coming flu year. the vaccine is still your best protection, but it's not perfect.
>> reporter: each year 60 million people get the flu, and doctors say it is not too late to get the flu vaccine . they urge you to do that for anybody who is six months or older. they say if you get sick, stay home and don't let your child bring it to school.