WMAR - Right now every state in the continental U.S. has been affected by the flu. In Texas, the epidemic forces a school district to close for a week. And in California, a hospital sets up tents to deal with the overflow of flu patients.
This flu season is certainly getting attention because this year's vaccine isn't as effective and the H3-N2 flu strain, a particularly vicious one, is being seen a lot.
"Every year there's a lot variation in the flu just because the flu changes the different proteins that are on the outside of it," said Dr. Travis Thompson, attending physician, at Medstar Union Memorial Hospital
.Doctors say getting the vaccine even a weakened one, is your best defense, but those we spoke to have mixed reviews about the shot.
"I normally get my flu shot because I work in retail and with dealing with a lot of people I don't want to pick up on what they have or whatever their children have," Sierra Caton told ABC2.
Another Maryland resident, Jamoni Brockington, told a different story. I think it's one of those things where I haven't gotten the flu yet and I don't think I need to worry about it."
"No one for the most part dies from the flu itself, it's complications of the flu," said Dr. Thompson.
Some feel the flu isn't a big deal, others find the symptoms unbearable but either way, it shouldn't require a hospital visit unless things get progressively worse.
"The worst complication that I usually see is ARDS or Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome basically what this is an overwhelming inflammation of the lungs," said Thompson.
Which is where the danger comes.
"It can be so bad that people aren't able to breathe, they have to be in the ICU, and even sometimes that's not enough. With our advances in critical care, most of the time we can
support people through that but it can be a deadly complication of the flu," continued Thompson.
While health department officials believe the season is peaking, it will most likely go on for several months. Maryland's health officials reported widespread flu activity during the beginning of January.
The flu generally comes with typical symptoms like, fever, cough, body aches, runny nose and fatigue.
Doctors say hand washing is a good defense, staying home when you're sick and getting the flu shot can reduce your chances of getting sick.