Flu season is now in full swing and the number of people sick with the virus in the Baystate has increased dramatically in recent weeks.
"The flu season is very early this year," said Dr. Sarah Haessler, an infectious disease specialist at Baystate Medical Center. "Last year it came later and it was a milder flu season in terms of us having fewer cases in the area."
New data reveals that there is a significant increase in the number of flu cases reported for this time of year over last. As of Friday, 3,736 cases had been confirmed in the state. That compared to 126 at the same time last year.
"We're peaking much earlier, we're coming up much earlier," said Haessler. "We don't know what the curve is going to look like. So is it going to go up and stay high or is it going to come up and come back down?"
Here in Western Mass 160 cases have been confirmed already in comparison with 17 at this time last year. And, even though flu season appears to be in full swing doctors say there is still time to get a flu shot.
"The flu vaccine is still available and it is definitely not too late to get it," said Haessler. "You will develop immunity to the flu virus within two weeks of getting your flu shot. It doesn't provide 100 percent protection but it is our best defense."
Many like Richard Martin have chosen to already get one.
"I don't want to get the flu," said Martin.
Martin says he's been getting the vaccine the last five years and it's paid off. He has never gotten the flu. But, others say they're going to take their chances without it.
"I used to get them because I have asthma but I don't need one anymore," said Ashley Brand. "I don't really get sick."
"I've been doing fine for the last 10, 15, 20 years ..." said James Dunkin. "So I don't feel it is necessary."
Symptoms of the flu are usually worse than those of a common cold. They include fever, body aches, extreme fatigue and an intense dry cough whereas common colds come with a lot of congestion including runny or stuffy noses.
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