In today's 6 For Your Health headlines... breaking news from the Department of Health and Welfare as the flu has contributed to 3 deaths in the Gem State. It's just another sign flu season has begun early and with a vengeance. But doctors say there's still time to protect yourself and your family. Erika Edwards reports.
Doctor's office waiting rooms are filling up with coughing, sneezing, feverish, achy patients.
Flu season has arrived - a month earlier than usual.
Dr. Ryan Shelton - Carolinas Healthcare System: "It's earlier this year, and it's more severe. This is going to be a tough flu season for us."
The US Centers for Disease Control and prevention reports this is the earliest start to flu activity we've seen since the severe 2003-2004 season.
Doctors are also seeing the same subtype of flu -- an H3N2 strain -- that was predominant a decade ago.
One difference from the 2003 season -- is that researchers think this year's flu vaccine is a close match to the viral strains that are circulating.
And doctors insist the vaccine -- in shot or mist form -- continues to be your best protection against the flu.
They say now's the time to make time to get it.
Dr. Ryan Shelton: "If you catch the flu, you will be down for the count for at least a week."
Hardest hit states so far are shown here in red and located in the southeast: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee.
More now on those flu deaths we mentioned earlier.
Idaho public health officials are reporting that 3 women have died from influenza-related causes; one from southeast Idaho and two from southwest Idaho. All 3 were over the age of 50 and are the first reported flu-related deaths in Idaho this year.