Flu Outbreak Sweeps Across Nation; Could be Worst Ever, Health Officials Say

Health officials are warning that this year's flu season could be one of the worst ever after a high number of cases have been reported throughout the country.

The flu season started early this year in November and has recorded high levels of occurrences in states across the country.

"It's stacking up to be moderate to severe … in the past 10 years we have seen just two or three like it." Tom Skinner, with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the New York Daily News.

When people are in close proximity to one another the risk of infection increases. CDC data shows that a person who displays symptoms of the flu has a 70 to 80 percent chance of spreading the virus to others should they cough or sneeze in public.

Doctors also reveal that bacteria containing flu germs can remain various surfaces for up to eight hours, which increases that likelihood of transmission.

Doctors recommend that everyone should get a flu shot, however, if a person should choose not to, they should wash their hands frequently and to stay away from others exhibiting flu-like symptoms.

New York has been hit especially hard with one death resulting from the flu in the state out of 18 deaths reported nationwide. So far this year the flu virus has been reported in 41 states, with 29 states reporting high or "severe" case levels.

"Don't send your kids to school if they are sick. And get them vaccinated," Manhattan pediatrician Dr. Shulamite Kon told the New York Daily News. She added that kids and the elderly are the most susceptible to contracting the flu

In New York State there has been close to a 250 percent increase in flu cases from last year with over 15,000 cases reported this year compared with 4,400 cases reported for all of last year.