Watch out for the flu this season, which is turning out to be a formidable opponent. The virus has picked up activity in Maryland and Virginia according to the states’ health departments, peaking ahead of its usual schedule of mid-January through February.

Flu activity was up to 1,269 cases the week ending Dec. 22 compared to 639 cases the prior week, reports the Maryland Department of Health. The highest number of doctors’ office and emergency room visits for flu symptoms were seen among patients between the ages of 5 to 24 years old.

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Virginia has seen widespread flu activity with the most cases among patients between the ages of 5 to 18, reports the Virginia  Department of Health.

“We are seeing many more cases of the flu right now compared to this time last year,” says Dr. Terry Jodrie, Emergency Physician at Washington Adventist Hospital. “But it’s not too late to get your flu vaccine. Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and those around you from serious flu-related complications and to stay healthy this flu season.”

“The flu is particularly dangerous for pregnant women, young children and the elderly,” says Judy Lichty, Regional Director of Health & Wellness for Adventist HealthCare.

This year’s dominant strain circulating is H3N2, which in past years has caused even more severe flu seasons, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Just because you’ve been immunized for a particular strain of the flu doesn’t mean that you aren’t at risk at getting it again,” notes Lichty.

The CDC recommends getting a flu shot each year because flu viruses are constantly changing. Flu vaccines are formulated to protect against three strains of the flu that experts believe will be most common during that season.

Help stop the flu this season, get a flu shot today, plus check out more tips on how to stay healthy during flu season.