Outbreaks of influenza are getting an early start this year in part because of cold weather gripping much of the USA and low efficacy associated with this year's flu vaccine. The definition of the influenza is that it attacks the lungs, nose, and throat. Young children, older adults, pregnant women, and people with chronic disease or weak immune systems are at high risk. How it spreads: By airborne respiratory droplets (coughs or sneezes). By skin-to-skin contact (handshakes or hugs),y saliva (kissing or shared drinks) and by touching a contaminated surface (blanket or doorknob).

The symptoms include fever, chills, muscle aches, cough, congestion, runny nose, headaches, and fatigue. The flu is treated primarily with rest and fluid to let the body fight the infection on its own. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain relievers may help with symptoms. An annual vaccine can help prevent the flu and limit its complications.- Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

It's still too early to say whether this winter will be a bad season for the flu, but epidemiologists in 36 states already have reported widespread influenza activity to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in data released Friday. Twenty-one of those states show a high number of cases. Peak flu activity in the U.S. usually occurs around February.

CNN stated that all states but four now have a widespread case of the flu including Utah. With so many people that have fallen sick with influenza, pharmacies have run out of flu medicines, emergency rooms are packed, and the death toll is rising higher than in previous years.

For here in Utah, more than 400 people have been hospitalized with seven reported deaths in the recent weeks. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are encouraging Utahns to get vaccinated, wash their hands and stay home from work/ school if they are sick. Here are some more ways that you can keep healthy and flu free. - KSL.com

1. Get a flu vaccine.

The flu vaccine is a vaccines that protect against infection by Influenza viruses. A new version of the vaccine is developed twice a year, as the Influenza virus rapidly changes. The pharmacy program from M-tech states “get the flu shots in september or october before flu season starts because its best chance of prevention.

2. Avoid close contact.

Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.

3. Stay home when you are sick.

If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. This will help prevent spreading your illness to others.

4. Cover your mouth and nose.

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.

5.Clean your hands.

Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

6. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.

7. Practice other good health habits.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

These tips were provided by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.