Flu season off to an early start

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) -- It's unclear why but flu season is off to its earliest start in nearly a decade and it's shaping up to be a nasty one.

"I did not get a flu shot and I got the flu in October," said Diane Winder of Boise. "It was very bad. It leveled me."

And this season's strain of flu is especially hard on the elderly.

"It's something to worry about," said Joanne Wootton of Boise. "I recommend everybody get a flu shot in case you're exposed to it."

That's good advice. Health officials say the best defense is a flu shot.
"I probably will," said Mark Auth of Boise. "It's a wise precaution."

Three Idaho women have recently died from complications of the flu.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare says the women were all over the age of 50. Two lived in southwestern Idaho and one in southeastern Idaho. Theirs are the first flu-related deaths in Idaho this season.

During the 2010-2011 flu season, state Health and Welfare records show 21 people in died in Idaho from flu-related complications and that was a flu season that saw the latest start nationally in 24 years.

This flu season, the flu strains circulating in the United States, especially the N3N2 strain, tend to cause more severe disease as well.

The good news is that this year's flu vaccine is a 90% match for the circulating strains. "So we're particularly encouraging people who haven't been vaccinated to do it," said Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.