INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - The CDC is reporting the flu season has started earlier than it has in a decade. Indiana is one of more than two dozen states that are reporting startling numbers.
In the last week of 2012, nationally there has been a 5.6 percent increase in cases. In Indiana, the Indiana State Health Department is reporting around a 6 percent increase.
The CDC and Indiana are reporting one of earliest peaks of the flu since the 2003 - 2004 season. Dr Chris Belcher, a St Vincent's Infectious Disease Specialist, says that's why it's so important to get your vaccine early.
"Flu is a variable which is important to us because we want to get people vaccinated in time for flu season. Nowadays, we give flu vaccines in August and September because of these early seasons," explains Dr Belcher.
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According to the Indiana State Health Department's numbers, the last week of 2012 had almost a 6 percent jump in reportable cases compared to a three year average.
The entire flu season has had seven deaths in the state. Two of those happened in the last week of 2012. Dr Belcher says an early peak does not mean the flu season will be over early.
"One thing we sometimes see in some of these seasons is kind of two peaks. Sometimes we'll see an early one and a second strain comes around later in the season," says Dr Belcher.
The flu usually peaks in February. Now the CDC is trying to figure out why the season started so early.
"Flu does seem to have a little difference with weather, but that association has never been well understood," says Dr. Belcher.
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Health experts say the vaccine isn't to blame. The vaccination protects against the correct strains. Dr Belcher points out it's not just the flu you're protecting yourself from.
"Influenza leads to problems with the immune system and in the lungs itself. The virus, especially with people that have other medical conditions, can lead to new infections like pneumonia, or sinus infection. It does lead to the deaths and severe illnesses due to influenza," says Dr. Belcher.
Dr. Belcher encourages people who haven't been vaccinated to get the vaccine because we could have a second peak this year.
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