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The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) reported Wednesday that the flu has become more widespread in Arizona this season. According to ADHS, there are 2,629 more flu cases reported than this time last year. 
As of Dec. 20, there have been 2,976 cases of flu reported compared to 347 for the same time period in 2016, which is a 758 percent increase in flu activity. 
"It's impossible to know whether we're just seeing an early increase and we're going to see an early decrease as well or whether this is going to be an unusually severe flu season," said Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine with the Maricopa County Health Department. 
ADHS said this is the highest number of flu cases since the flu test became reportable. In the last two seasons, flu cases in Arizona didn't reach these numbers until February.
"Getting a flu shot is the best way to protect yourself and your family against the flu, and with the disease spreading quickly in Arizona the time to get vaccinated is now," said Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services. "It can take up to two weeks to build full immunity to the flu after you are vaccinated, so I encourage everyone who has not yet had a flu shot to get one today before the holidays."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months get a flu shot each season. This is mainly important for people who are at risk for complications, such as adults aged 65 years or older, people with asthma or diabetes and pregnant women. 
People can find a place to get vaccinated at vaccinefinder.org
Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness but can also lead to hospitalization and death. 
The flu virus spreads when someone with the flu coughs, sneezes or talks. You can also catch influenza by touching a surface or object that the virus lands on and then touching your face. 
Even if you are vaccinated, there are more ways to prevent the spread of influenza:
  • Wash your hands
  • Cover your cough
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Avoid touching your face
For more information about the flu vaccine, contact the ADHS Immunization Office at 602-364-3630 or your county health department. You can stay up-to-date on flu activity in Arizona throughout the season by viewing the weekly reports on the ADHS website at azhealth.gov/flu, or by subscribing to receive the flu report via email at azhealth.gov/email.

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