It's official: flu season in the US has kicked off, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention announced on Friday -- making it the latest flu season start in the country in 24 years.
The CDC has been monitoring the flu for months but does not consider the season officially launched until more than 10 percent of respiratory specimens from laboratories around the country test positive for flu.
Published on February 24 in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the latest flu report shows influenza activity has slightly increased in February, but still remains relatively low.
Meanwhile, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) also reported that flu activity continued to rise last week in the region. Belgium, Italy, and Spain reported widespread activity, and 18 countries reported increasing activity.
If you don't take the right precautions, odds are that up to one in five people will catch the flu in any given flu season, warns WebMD.
Getting vaccinated could be your best defense in protecting yourself, WebMD adds.The World Health Organization advises that vaccinations are especially important for elderly persons, pregnant women, health care workers, and people over the age of six months with chronic serious health conditions.
Also, strengthen your immune system by eating healthy foods, exercising at least four days a week (but not working out too hard or too often to cause stress and fatigue), and sleeping at least seven or eight hours a night.
Other tips from WebMD: Wash your hands with warm water and soap every time you shake hands or touch a surface that may be contaminated with the flu virus. Carry an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you, and don't touch your mouth, eyes, or nose without washing your hands first.