YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - The flu season has arrived earlier than usual and it is wide spread across the country.
Health experts say what was already been a bad flu season is quickly getting worse. The government is reporting widespread flu cases in 41 states, that's 10 more than a week earlier.
Ohio is reporting a high intensity for influenza like illness and the Health Commissioner for the Mahoning County District Health Board says in the northeast region the numbers are on the rise.
"The northeast part of the state has more than doubled in cases in the last week," said Health Commissioner Patricia Sweeney.
ValleyCare confirms they are seeing an increase in cases this year.
"We've had a spike in comparison to previous years in our hospital admissions. We're seeing 20 or 30, it's very unusual for this early in the influenza season," said ValleyCare spokesperson Renee Rush.
ValleyCare has posted signs asking anyone with cold or flu symptoms not to visit at this time.
"Please stay home. Send a card make or a phone call," Rush said.
At St. Elizabeth Health Center, Humility of Mary Health Partners also has signs posted with temporary visitation restrictions, including no children under the age 14.
"We're really requesting that they not come to the hospital because we currently have a large influx of influenza A patients in the hospital," said HMHP Chief Medical Officer Dr. Nick Kreatsoulos.
Even though the flu is five weeks ahead of normal, Commissioner Sweeney says the peak could still be yet to come.
"As the traditional flu season timing comes through, we may see another surge," Sweeney said.
This year's flu strain appears to be a particularly nasty one and the single most affected way to prevent it is the flu vaccine.
"What's very important about this year is the three viruses that are included in this year's vaccine are completely different than what was in last year's vaccine." Sweeney said.
The health department stresses that it's not too late to get your flu shot.
The health district will be offering the flu vaccine to walk-ins on Tuesday from 3 to 6 p.m. and on Wednesday and Thursday from 9 to 6 p.m. at its office in Austintown.
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