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Just The Beginning Of Flu Season

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that this year's flu season has not yet reached its peak, even though several hard-hit states have seen the number of flu cases drop off.

On Wednesday, The Early Show Medical Correspondent Dr. Emily Senay will give the latest on the flu.

The latest from the CDC shows that five states are reporting a decline in the number of flu cases -- enough to downgrade their status from widespread. But there are still 42 states classified as widespread across the country, and all states continue to report flu cases.

Despite the declines, the CDC says that flu continues to hit Americans hard, and the states haven't seen the peak of the season yet.

Senay says the flu is still at epidemic levels in the country. The percentage of hospital visits for flu-like illness is still on the rise, according to the CDC. And, it is still above the number used to define an epidemic. Senay explains compared to last year's season the difference is quite dramatic.

Results of a survey of a 122 cities around the country show that the percentage of deaths from pneumonia and influenza are also at a season high and above epidemic levels.

Some of the states showing declines in new cases are still classified as widespread. The number of new flu cases in Colorado, which was hit hard and early, has slowed by 50 percent, but there were still more than 350 cases reported last week, raising the total for Colorado to almost 1,200 confirmed cases for the year.

Senay says it's not just the emerging strain, called Fujian, which might present problems. Officials are also on the lookout for outbreaks of type B influenza, which tend to come later in the winter.

The traditional flu peak of the season is just about to begin and doesn't end until March. Additional strains can still surface, and the current flu strain is likely to simmer and smolder for a while longer in places where it's already hit.

Senay says the fact that schools have been closed the past two weeks could also be a factor in the decline in the number of new cases in some areas. Health officials are bracing for another spike now that the holidays are over.

It isn't too late to get your flu shot, says Senay. Supplies are limited, but the CDC says that they are distributing more stocks this month. It's still available in some areas, and it's worth looking for a shot if you're a high-risk older adult, young child aged six to 23 months or have an underlying health issue that puts you at risk.

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