BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A warning from the Centers for Disease Control: flu season is off to its earliest start in nearly a decade and the strain is said to be unusually nasty.

Monique Griego has more.

Health officials say cases have spiked in 5,000 states. That has doctors urging people to protect those most at risk.

On the playground, a flu virus is an invisible enemy and parents got a new warning from doctors Tuesday. They say this flu season could be the worst we’ve seen in years.

“Now with school, we are worried about it with the little ones,” said one parent.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, flu season is off to its earliest start in nearly a decade and the primary strain is making people more sick than usual.

“There are states around the country where the level of activity of influenza has gone up pretty dramatically,” said Dr. Oxiris Barbot.

Baltimore City Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot says so far, Maryland hasn’t seen an increase in cases or the severity of symptoms.

“Seeing that it’s going up in other states reminds us that it’s not too late to get the flu shot,” said Barbot.

So far, there have been two child deaths reported so for many parents, the flu shot means extra peace of mind.

“Because they’re going to get sick, so if we can keep it from, you know, going to the next level and becoming really dangerous, we will,” said Kristin Zessel.

The CDC says on average, 24,000 Americans die of the flu each year. Those most at risk are the elderly, very young and people with underlying health problems.

“Heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, those types of things,” Barbot said.

For their little ones, parents we spoke with felt the benefits of getting vaccinated outweighed the risks.

“You don’t want to be that mom that brought it to school for everyone to share,” Zessel said.

The last time a flu season started off this strong was back in 2003. That season, 48,000 people died from the flu. Doctors say this year’s vaccine is a much better match for the current strain.

Doctors recommend anyone over the age of six months get a flu shot.

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