STANISLAUS COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) -- Nationwide this flu season is on track to be one of the worst in decades, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
The Centers for Disease Control is reporting at least 2,900 U.S. deaths because of the flu since October. The latest local case was a man in Stanislaus County.
And the season has only now been ramping up.
"In a typical year, there are about 25 million cases, 25 million cases in the United States resulting in 500,000 hospitalizations and, on average, about 30,000 deaths,” said Sacramento County Health Services Director Dr. Peter Beilenson. “So it's a pretty serious condition for particular groups of people."
On Tuesday, Dr. Beilenson said it is not too late to get vaccinated.
"And it's clearly beneficial to get the vaccine,” he told FOX40. “A couple things to point out, there are several different vaccines now, from the nasal mist, which is good for 2- to 49-year-olds, and then a whole bunch of different shots."
Children under 5 and adults over 65 with underlying health problems are most at risk.
But how do you know if you have a cold or the flu?
"In general, the flu is a significantly more serious condition,” Beilenson said.
"You can tell when you got the flu because you'll be sitting there and then, all of a sudden, you feel like you're hit by a train," said Dr. Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Children’s Hospital. "So, it's really sudden onset, higher fever, more dramatic illness. And then you do get the muscle aches, the pain, as well as the respiratory symptoms."
"People often feel like they've gotten beaten up," Beilenson said.
This year's dominant strain of the flu is type B, which is more severe than the type A typically seen early in a flu season.
"There's anti-viral treatment but the treatment works best if it's given early in the illness," Dr. Blumberg told FOX40. "So we do recommend anybody who is coughing or sneezing or symptomatic or not feeling well, stay home. Don't go to school, don't go to work."
Doctors say keep away from those who are sick.
"If you're coughing, cover your cough, don't cough into your hand because then you touch things and other things get contaminated,” Blumberg said. “Wash your hands often."
But overall, doctors emphasize getting the flu vaccination.