girl getting flu shot

This flu season is so bad that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has officially classified the illness as an epidemic, reports ABC News. This year's strain of the virus, H3N2, has already proven to be deadly. Fifteen children have died from flu complications, and hospitalizations are on the rise, especially among seniors and young children.

So far, Tennessee has been hit the hardest from the flu outbreak. At least six children in that state have died from the illness, and East Tennessee Children's Hospital has seen 442 children with flu symptoms in this month alone. The most-affected states are in the South, Midwest, and West. However, everyone is at risk of contracting the flu. Twenty-two states are reporting high levels of  "'influenza-like' illness activity," and every region of the country has suffered from outbreaks. Every season, the flu can be deadly for children and the elderly. "Every year about a hundred children die from the flu," says ABC News chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser. The flu season has been starting earlier and earlier, he added, which is a worrisome trend.

If you or your child hasn't gotten the flu shot yet, it's not too late. Even though the current vaccine hasn't been a very strong defense against this year's severe subtype of the flu, it can still help. "Get a flu shot. It doesn't matter what kind of flu is going around, if you get a flu shot you do have protection against the strains of flu that is in the shot, and if you get a case of the flu it is usually not as bad," advises East Tennessee Children's Hospital Director of Infection Control Darci Hodge. Something to keep in mind: children under the age of 8 may require two doses of the vaccine at least 28 days apart to get the maximum protection from the shots.

Image via Shutterstock