The season for sniffling and sneezing is here and while noses are running, people are also running to their local health departments to be vaccinated against influenza.
Peter Correale, health officer for both Bloomingdale and Kinnelon through the Pequannock Health Department, said flu cases have jumped in the past month.
"There absolutely has been an early and severe spike in the number of illnesses," Correale said.
Deaths caused by influenza in 2013 reached epidemic levels late last week, according to a report in the New York Times, but the government-run Center for Disease Control (CDC) says it may have peaked.
Either way, the organization says those who have yet to receive a flu shot should still do so, as the current outbreak continues to work its way through the country. The height of flu season is February, according to the CDC.
"It usually spikes a little later in the year. This year, a lot of cases have been reported and it's earlier," Correale said. "It's cyclic worldwide."
The current strand of influenza ravaging the nation has claimed the lives of 20 children, the New York Times reported. In a typical year, the report said, just 37-percent of Americans receive the inoculation.
While the CDC says this season's flu vaccine is anywhere between 50 and 70-percent effective, Correale said "that's a pretty good effective rate." He noted that the earlier a person receives the vaccine, the better the chances they will not become ill. He also dispelled a common myth that when a person is inoculated they actually get the flu.
For those who have never experienced the flu, side effects include aches, fever and chills. Correale said the virus can be debilitating and force those who have it to visit physicians when symptoms are severe.
"There is medication that helps with the symptoms. It doesn't cure it, it has to run its course," Correale said.
To read tips from the CDC on how to stay healthy and potentially prevent being infected by the flu, click here.