Flu Near You Tracks Epidemic Across US (See Map)

First Posted: Jan 15, 2013 03:39 PM EST

Influenza is on the rise, and it's probably already on your doorstep. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have declared a national influenza epidemic, New York has declared a public health emergency, and the illness is starting to spread through parts of California.

Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness. Young children and those who are 65 and older are most likely to fall victim to flu complications, and public officials urge people in either category to get the influenza vaccine as soon as possible.

It is easy to see how far this particular outbreak has spread. The website, Flu Near You, has charted outbreaks of the illness across the United States. You don't have to look closely at the map to see that current levels are dangerous. A vast carpet of red color covers the U.S. The northeast in particular has been hit hardest by the latest numbers with cities such as Boston experiencing more than 10 times as many cases as this time last year. If you're particularly worried about your area, you can type in your area code and see how many reported incidents have occured in your vicinity.

What makes this epidemic worse is that the vaccine is becoming harder to find. The unusually early flu season has left Americans clamoring for the cure while drug stores quickly run out. In addition, the flu vaccine does not always work. This year's version is only 62 percent effective, leaving many people to believe that it's a waste of time to get one.

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