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Centers For Disease Control: Flu More Widespread, But Eases Off In Some Areas

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Crowded emergency rooms and a rush on flu shots, that was the story Friday across the Tri-State Area, as the Centers for Disease Control revealed the flu is even more widespread than first thought.

The numbers are up – from just Thursday, CBS 2's Jennifer McLogan reported.

New York state alone is reporting more than 19,000 confirmed cases so far this year -- that's five times more than all of 2012.

WEB EXTRA: Find A Flu Shot

Officials said 5 percent of emergency room visits are flu-related.

CDC To Release Update On Flu Season

Doctors and nurses can barely keep up with overwhelming numbers seeking emergency flu shots each day.

Doctor Jon Weinstein told CBS 2's Sean Hennessey the number of flu shots his facility on the Upper West Side gave on Friday was five times more than a typical day.

"[We are] hitting records every day. There's beginning to be a lot of fear in the population," Dr. Weinstein said.

Over at Montefiore Medical Center it was more of the same.

"This week we hit 371 patients in a 24-hour period. In the days following they hit 394, much of it flu-like illness," Dr. Andrew Chertoff said.

Eric Smith, a 2-year-old suffering from, fever and nausea, wasn't thrilled about the flu shot, but his parents were hopeful. The pediatric clinic at Nassau University Medical Center has been overflowing with concerned parents and their sick children.

Julie Foley said she wasn't taking any chances.

"I've had the flu before. My pediatrician gave the kids the shot and I had the shot," she told CBS 2's McLogan.

Already, 20 children across the country have died from the flu. It is expected the flu will kill 24,000 adults by season's end.

CDC To Release Update On Flu Season

And the CDC announced Friday that flu is now widespread in 47 states, with only California, Hawaii and Mississippi avoiding an outbreak so far. The CDC hinted that flu may have already peaked in some spots, but also that New York is experiencing "high activity."

"Here in New York, we have not seen the decline in the flu yet, so I think everyone needs to take it seriously and take the important steps to prevent themselves from getting the flu, and protect their family," said Nassau University Dr. Steve Walerstein.

In our area so far, two children have died in New York and New Jersey, and three people have died in Connecticut as a result of the flu.

Doctors said it is not too late and are urging everyone to get a flu shot. It takes two weeks for its affects to kick in, and flu season will last well into March, all the while claiming victims.

However, It has not been easy for many trying to find the flu shot.

WCBS 880 reporter Marla Diamond found three Duane Reades, a Walgreens, a CVS, and her doctor on the Upper West Side on Friday, and all were wiped out.

"There are more patients coming in for vaccine right now because patients are hearing 'Gosh there's a lot of flu out there and I need to get my vaccine,'" said Dr. Jessica Sessions, who heads pediatrics at the Ryan Community Health Center. "Been very busy the past two weeks with many patients coming in with cough, fever, and sore throat."

Hard To Find Flu Shot

They have vaccine for patients like Paul, a teacher who got his.

"It was funny. The one year I didn't get the flu shot, I got the flu and the years I got the flu shot, I do not get the flu," he told Diamond.

Though supplies have run out in certain places, the vaccine is still widely available, medical officials said. Private doctors' offices, pharmacies and hospitals offer the shots and most insurance covers the approximate $30 cost.

So why did the flu come so early and hit us so hard? One theory is that fewer in our area were prepared.

"Most people get their flu vaccinations in the fall. And with Superstorm Sandy, a lot of routine patterns in people's lives were disrupted," Nassau County Health Commissioner Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein said.

The flu vaccine is reformulated annually, and officials say this year's version is a strong combatant, and more than 62 percent effective against viruses going around.

If you get the flu shot but end up getting sick anyway, doctors said you'll most likely get a milder case. Flu usually peaks in midwinter. Symptoms can include fever, cough, runny nose, head and body aches and fatigue. Some people also suffer vomiting and diarrhea, and some develop pneumonia or other severe complications.

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