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CDC: Flu Season Early, Urges Flu Shot

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WASHINGTON, D.C., Afghanistan, Nov 18, 2003 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- U.S. federal health officials said the influenza season has started much earlier than usual and reminded people to get a flu shot right away.

Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said Texas is experiencing an influenza outbreak statewide and cases have been reported in 30 other states.

The early flu season could be a sign this season may be especially severe, the CDC told a Washington news conference.

"We're very concerned that the flu season has had an earlier onset than we've seen in many years," Julie L. Gerberding, director of the CDC, said, the Washington Post reported.

"That's why we're here today -- to sound the alarm."

Anyone who wants a flu shot should get one, but health officials recommend influenza vaccination for anyone age 50 or older, people with health problems, children ages 6 months to 23 months and health care workers.

In a typical year, influenza sends about 114,000 to the hospital and kills about 36,000.

Copyright 2003 by United Press International.

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