Nightly News   |  December 08, 2012

Flu cases spread across country

Doctors say the best prevention against the flu is to get vaccinated. This year’s vaccine closely matches the virus that is circulating and is in ample supply, officials told NBC’s Robert Bazell.

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>>> in health news tonight, the cdc says the country is already in the midst of flu season . with more and more cases being reported. and children are among those seen as especially vulnerable. we get the latest tonight from nbc's chief science correspondent, robert bazell .

>> reporter: flu continues to spread throughout the country. with this season starting early and threatening to become one of the worst in almost a decade. cdc data showed that last week all states had some flu activity. and in eight, it is widespread, up from four the week before. at the children's hospital in memphis, they're feeling the first wave.

>> we've seen more than 200 cases of flu in the hospital this week, and we're admitting eight to ten kids a day. we expect it to accelerate and get worse before it gets better in the next few weeks.

>> reporter: schoolchildren are not only vulnerable, any play a big role in spreading the flu.

>> when you have all those kids getting together, they tend to pass the virus back and forth. they all get sick in the school. and they bring it home into the community.

>> reporter: so far nationally this year, five children have died from the flu. in the 2009 /'10 season when a new strain appeared, 279 died. health officials are urging everyone, adults and children over 6 months old, to get vaccinated. the vaccine is not a guarantee against wintertime illness, but it does greatly reduce the chance of serious disease, especially in those 65 and older who have naturally weakened immune systems .

>> the way to protect those people is to vaccinate the people around them. so vaccinating more children reduces the risk of older people in the community of getting the flu.

>> reporter: this year's vaccine closely matches the virus that is circulating. and officials emphasized there's plenty to go around, and it's never too late to get it. robert bazell , nbc news, new york.