SAN FRANCISCO
01/13/2013 12:04 pm ET | Updated Jan 13, 2013

San Francisco Flu Leaves Residents Worried As Doctors Urge Vaccinations

As an especially severe flu epidemic sweeps the United States, with nearly 4,000 hospitalized since the beginning of October, people in the Bay Area are increasingly being affected by the disease.

While California is one of the in the places in the country least affected by the flu--one of the only a small handful of states rated on Google Flu Trends as having "high" rather than "intense" flu activity--the trend has pointed to exponential growth as the virus continues to spread.

(SCROLL DOWN TO SEE HOW SAN FRANCISCANS ARE REACTING TO THE FLU)

"California is seeing an accelerated increase in flu activity over the past few weeks," Dr. Ron Chapman, director of of the state's Department of Public Health, said in a statement.

Dr. Chapman noted that the flu season is likely to go for at least a few more weeks -- usually peaking in February or March -- and urges people get take measures to prevent from getting infected.

"The best defense against the flu is getting vaccinated," he explained. "This year's vaccine is an excellent match against this year’s influenza strains."

San Francisco General Hospital currently has five patients who have been admitted with the flu. This isn't a particularly high number to have at any one given time; however, it is unusual for this early in the flu season.

Of the 313 individuals the hospital has screened for the flu since the season began last Fall, 24 have tested positive for the virus.

In other parts of the country, this year's flu season has been especially brutal. Last week, Boston's emergency rooms were so overwhelmed with flu patients that Mayor Thomas Menino declared a "public heath emergency."

Google notes that this year looks to be the worst flu season on record since the company started using aggregated search data to track the prevalence of the flu.

Some of the symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, sore throat, muscle pains, headache and fatigue. Pregnant women, the elderly, and those with chronic health conditions are the highest risk and health officials are urging people in those categories who being experiencing flu-like symptoms to contact a doctor.

However, people who are severely allergic to eggs or have a history of Guillain–Barré Syndrome should avoid getting a flu shot.

Even though some areas around the country have reported running out of flu vaccines, officials in California insist those shortages aren't a problem in the Golden State.

"There is no shortage of vaccine in California and it is not too late to get vaccinated," said Dr. Chapman.

In the Sacramento area, hospitals have reported two deaths stemming from the flu over the past month.

Check out how San Franciscans are dealing with the flu in the way they know best: complaining about it on Twitter. (Warning: Some SF residents feel strongly about getting the flu and thus use strong language when talking about it. NSFW):

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