(AP MODIFIED) - Scrambling to deal with the flu outbreak, hospitals around the nation are taking some extreme emergency responses to deal with a swarm of patients.
Health officials say this flu season is shaping up to be one of the more severe in recent years.
Medical experts and doctors visited the newsroom on Wednesday to answer your flu-related questions via Facebook and over the phone .
Thank you to everyone who posed questions over the phone and on our Facebook chats. If you want to read through all of the questions, browse through our flu Facebook posts.
We plucked out some of the top flu-related questions below. The answers are from Dr. Arunima Jayakar and Dr. Shaun Jayakar who both work at St. John Hospital.
Q: David Gakure: Do you require a flu shot after contracting the virus or is it too late?
A: Yes, the flu shot covers three strains of the flu. You may have had one strain, but the vaccine will cover others.
Q: Jody-Green Stephens: Is it true that if its your first time getting the flu shot you are suppose to receive a booster?
A: For children who are getting their first flu shot, they need two shots to be fully immunized
Q: Mike Berry Sr.: Is okay to get the flu shot if you currently have the flu to protect against other strains? Or, should you wait till you recover?
A: W ait until you recover because the shot triggers your immune system.
Q: Barb Ball Drinkhorn: Are you contagious before you even know that you have the flu?
A: One day before getting the symptoms of the flu and up to 5-7 after you've recovered.
Q: Anastasia Melnik: H ow can you tell the difference between the flu and colds?
A: F lu has more severe symptoms of body aches, fever, malaise.
Earlier reports indicated that this could be a bad flu season, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the data now confirm it. In the last week of December flu was widespread in 41 states; flu-related child and infant deaths climbed to 18 and outpatient visits for flu symptoms had jumped to 5.6 percent.
The CDC's Tom Skinner says "people who come down with the flu can be pretty sick," with severe muscle aches and high-grade fever lasting 4 or 5 days.
Skinner says for "certain groups of people -- mainly children, the elderly, people with underlying health conditions -- it can be life-threatening."
He says the vaccine is well-matched to this year's flu strains, but isn't 100 percent effective. It does reduce the severity of the illness for those who do get it, though -- so it's still worth a shot.
If you already have the flu and you want to find out who made you sick, there happens to be an app for that.
It's a Facebook app that searches your friends' profiles for keywords like sneezing and coughing.
The app also allows you to send messages to the culprit and buy medicine from the healthcare company that runs the app.
Copyright AP Modified, Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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