Five states report flu outbreaks as season starts unusually early

Liz Goodwin

This year's flu strain is spreading much earlier than usual, meaning those who don't get vaccinated could find themselves sick just in time for the holidays.

The Centers for Disease Control reported this week that the flu season is shaping up to be one of the earliest in the past 10 years. Flu cases usually peak in January or even later. Five states—Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas—are reporting unusually high flu activity right now.

Dr. William Schaffner, the former head of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, told CBS News that this year's flu is "early, serious and caused by a virus that causes more serious illness." One encouraging sign, he added, is that this year's flu vaccine appears to be well matched to fight the strain that's going around.

The CDC says about 37 percent of the general population has gotten their flu vaccinations so far. (It takes a few weeks for the vaccine to fully kick in.) Each year, thousands of people die from the flu, with the elderly and young children at the highest risk.