Questioning The Flu

It may be the season's second most frequent line of questioning, after 'what do you want for Christmas?'

"Any cough?"

Yes, flu season is upon us, CBS News correspondent Jim Axelrod reports.

Some pockets have been hit a little harder than usual, like Los Angeles.

"A lot of hospitals are reporting very, very heavy overcrowding because of a lot of people coming in with flu-like symptoms," says Dr. Jonathan Fielding, a L.A.-based doctor.

But nationally, the flu numbers aren't raising any red flags of concern, especially since this year, the supply of vaccines is holding relatively steady.

As Dr. William Schaffner says, "I dare say we're going to have a quite typical influenza season this year."

So if public health officials are using words like "typical" to describe the flu season, why are some emergency rooms in some parts of the country seeing spiking numbers already? Well, perhaps it's as much about what's in your head, as well as what's in your chest.

"I think it is that maybe some people have heard about avian flu and are confused that that could be something here and that could be more serious," Dr. Fielding says.

For what it's worth, there is no bird flu in the United States. Not a single case in humans. Not even in U.S. chickens, for that matter. And no, you can't get bird flu from eating chicken.

Of course, the regular flu and its complications are always serious business. They put more than two million people in the hospital every year. And, afterall, 'tis the season.

"I think the gathering of families under one roof, and the sharing of everything from pumpkin pie to a sneeze probably has something to do with it," Dr. J.J. Levenstein says.

But forget the avian flu. The only bird posing any threat is the piece of Christmas turkey shared with someone already sick with the regular flu.