The US is in the midst of a terrible flu outbreak-on track to be the worst in nearly a decade. So far 37 children are among those who have died from the flu. Doctors are seeing significantly more flu patients than in years past, and the flu season is far from over.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 12,000 hospitalizations and widespread outbreaks in every state except Hawaii.
"Right now influenza is everywhere," said the CDC's Dr. Alicia Fry.
Many of the parents of the youngest victims are expressing shock at how fast their children were taken from them after appearing healthy only days earlier.
Six-year-old Emily Muth of Cary, North Carolina died just four days after experiencing symptoms.
"All of a sudden she just raised up, then went back down," her mother Rhonda Muth said, "I'm like, 'Emily, Emily' and then I noticed she wasn't breathing."
The flu can turn into deadly sepsis, pneumonia and heart problems. New research published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows adults are six times more likely to have a heart attack within a week after getting the flu.
This season's dominant strain, H3N2, is especially virulent.
"The types of symptoms we're seeing for the flu would be is a dry cough, muscle aches, fever, chills, a headache, a sore throat, usually a quick onset of these symptoms," Dr. Donald Curtis, a physician at Patient First medical center in Virginia Beach told CBN News.
Antiviral drugs can help, but usually, they must be taken within two days of first experiencing symptoms in order to be effective.
This season's flu shot is only 30 percent effective at best. However, doctors say it's still the best way to avoid the flu, and it's not too late to get one.
"Even if you get the flu after getting the vaccine, which can happen," Dr. Curtis explained, "Chances are the illness will be shorter and less severe."
Doctors recommend avoiding people with the flu because they can breathe the virus out in particles that hover in the air.
Frequent hand washing is also advised since the flu virus can live on hard surfaces up to a day.
Strengthening the immune system is a good idea, too. This can involve a number of measures such as consuming probiotics and plenty of vegetables while avoiding inflammatory processed foods and sugars.
Getting enough sleep can boost your immunity, as can managing stress through things like exercise and prayer.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Spanish flu outbreak which killed 50 million people worldwide, including 675,000 Americans. That was before vaccines and antiviral meds, but infectious disease experts say a flu pandemic similar to 1918 could happen again.
Scientists are now working on a universal flu vaccine which will protect against all strains of the virus and be given every several years or ideally, only once in a lifetime. Although a universal flu vaccine is still a ways off, experts say it will be available to the public within years, not decades.