Flu virus becomes 'widespread' in Arizona

The flu season just kicked up a notch. Cases have spiked more than 50% just in the last week. That makes the flu officially widespread in Arizona, hitting every single county.

Usually, our state sees most of its flu cases in February or March. But, the virus is unpredictable and can peak at any time.  

This year, we're on track for a brutal year. Last flu season, our state had a total of 3,800 cases. This flu season, we've had 2,400 cases already and it's only going to get worse.

Dr. Kurt Solem with Scottsdale Healthcare says their three hospitals combined have seen more than 150 cases of the flu in just the past three weeks. He says, once the flu season starts, it spreads like a forest fire and he predicts the month of February will be an outright epidemic. 

So, what should you do? 

If you haven't gotten sick yet, the flu shot can still protect you. But, if you start to feel the nasty symptoms, and Dr. Solem says they come on suddenly, like a high fever, aches and pains, sore throat and cough, don't wait, see your doctor immediately.

"If someone seeks medical attention and gets on an anti-viral medication within the first 48 hours, we can usually truncate the illness and mitigate the symptoms. After 48 hours, the medicine doesn't usually work," Dr. Solem says.

So, how do you know when your symptoms are serious enough to get checked out? 

Dr. Solem says the flu and the cold are similar. But, while the cold is more of nuisance, the flu is a total game changer. 

You can tolerate the virus, if you're healthy. But, if you have an underlying health problem be careful and remember the flu kills roughly 20,000 people every year in the United States.

So, if you start feeling the symptoms, go to the doctor and stay home, so you don't spread it to others.

As a general rule of thumb, you're good to go and no longer contagious once you're fever free for 24 hours.

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