The Maine CDC advises residents to take precautions against getting the flu, which killed five people last week alone.

It seems like sickness is everywhere this year, whether it's respiratory infections, pneumonia, or the flu. While this flu season has not been as deadly as last year, it's still seen just over 7,000 people diagnosed with influenza, compared to just under 7,000 at this time last year. The flu vaccine is geared more toward this year's dominant strain of the virus, which may account, at least in part, to the fact that only about 730 people have been hospitalized, compared to more than 1,300 last year.

So far this season, influenza has claimed the lives of nearly 30 people. Last year, 80 Mainers died from complications associated with the flu. Most at risk of becoming seriously ill or dying are the elderly, young children, pregnant women, and anyone with an underlying condition like lung disease, diabetes, heart disease, and other long-term health conditions.

In an average week this season, 1 or maybe 2 people have died from the flu, according to the Maine CDC's Maine Flu website. Five in a week is startling, but still isn't a reason to panic. It is, however, a good reminder for residents to protect themselves as much as possible, including getting a flu vaccine. Health experts say that's really the best defense against the flu. Other suggestions include washing hands often and keeping your hands away from your eyes, nose, and mouth. Cover your cough and stay home if you're showing symptoms, to avoid spreading the virus.

Symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, and fatigue. According to the CDC, some people may experience nausea/vomiting and/or diarrhea, but that's mostly in children. There are medications that can help shorten the duration of the flu, and the sooner they're administered, the more effective they will be. Find more information on the Maine CDC's flu website.

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