WARREN, Ohio - This year's flu season could be shaping up to be one of the worst seasons in almost a decade.
Local health officials usually see an up-tick in flu cases after Christmas. However, they're already seeing increased flu activity.
"Because of the mild winter and mild flu season, people might be lulled into thinking that it is going to be mild this year, but it is not. It is going to be a regular flu season, but it is starting earlier than normal," said registered nurse Debbie Mokosh with the Trumbull County Health Department.
Widespread activity has been reported in nearly half of all states, including Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Three hospitalizations have been reported in Mercer County from the flu. In Mahoning County, one person has been hospitalized this flu season. Three people in Trumbull County have made hospital stays and five people from Columbiana County have been hospitalized due to the flu.
"The people that are more at risk are people that have chronic medical conditions or their immune system is compromised. Those would be the babies, young children or older folks or people that have an immune compromised situation," Mokosh said.
If you haven't already, health officials across the country encourage you to roll up your sleeve. The flu vaccine is recommended for adults and children over six-months-old.
The vaccine is not a guarantee against the winter sniffles. However, it does greatly reduce the chances of severe disease.
Most health departments, hospitals, doctor's offices and pharmacies carry the flu vaccine which comes in shot form and in a mist. It usually takes 10 to 14 days to obtain the full benefits from the flu vaccine.