Flu season gearing up to be in full swing

Over the next few weeks, the flu is expected to reach its peak. Already, there are signs cases of the flu are on the rise in the Washington area, according to health experts.

At Virginia Hospital Center, ER doctors say they're seeing occasional cases of influenza, but nothing significant yet.

"It really varies year-to-year, although this is typically the time where the flu cases tend to surge," said Dr. John Sverha, a Virginia Center Hospital ER physician.

So far, Center for Disease Control data shows little activity in D.C., sporadic flu cases in Maryland and more in Virginia. But it takes about two weeks to compile that data, so health experts also track Google's flu trends report. Those reports are indicating "moderate" flu activity nationwide with "high" flu activity in several cities, including the District.

It's important to note that the report is just an indicator based on the number of Google searches for the flu.

Still, doctors say the data can help them diagnose patients and prescribe the appropriate antiviral drugs.

The drugs don't necessarily kill the virus, but they do speed up recovery, said Dr. Carol Nieroda with "My Doctor Urgent Care."

The best way to avoid getting sick is a lot of hand washing, Nieroda said.

Even though many Americans got a flu shot months ago, health experts say the flu season can stretch into March or April, so it's not too late.

"Certainly the earlier the better," Sverha said. "It takes a period of weeks to build immunization to the actual flu shot. But now is not too late for the flu shot."

Symptoms of the flu include: sore throat, headaches, muscle aches, and extreme fatigue. The symptoms can last for more than a week if not taken care of.

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