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December 12, 2003
24 States Catch the Flu
The flu has spread across 24 states, jamming hospitals and clinics in many areas with people seeking treatment or looking for a shot of vaccine, USA Today reports. (Update: Health officials now say the flu has been reported in all 50 states).

"All jurisdictions are reporting flu," says Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "There's no indication that flu season has peaked, though it may be leveling off in places that are hardest hit."

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The flu can be serious, with complications from the flu claiming 36,000 Americans lives on average per year, according to the CDC.

The newspaper reports that there are shortages of the flu vaccine and health officials are recommending that vaccines should be first offered to people at a higher risk of serious complications, including people 65 and older, those with chronic diseases, infants between 6 and 23 months of age, and women in their second and third trimesters of pregnancy.

The CDC says that while the best time to receive a flu shot is October through November, people can still benefit form the vaccine after November. It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to begin working.

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