01/05/2013 02:02 pm ET

Flu Hitting Chicago Earlier And Harder This Season, Experts Say

CHICAGO — The flu has hit the Windy City earlier than any time in the previous five years and it's showing no sign of letting up, as hospitalizations increase and reported cases of the highly contagious viral infection continue to climb.

"So far, it's just going up," Julie Morita, medical director for the Chicago Department of Public Health's immunization program, said of the number of cases in the city. "Typically the flu increases in January or later, but this is the earliest we've seen in at least the past five years."

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Alina Pastoriza Garcia, ARNP-NP-C, administers a flu vaccination to Russell Waddey at the CVS/pharmacy's MinuteClinic on December 4, 2012 in Miami, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)