LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Emergency rooms are becoming inundated with patients who have the flu.

“Flu season right now is kicked into high gear,” said Cathy Pattengale, an infection prevention RN at Norton Audubon Hospital. “It's sudden and it's intense.”

So much so that the CDC declared widespread flu activity in 36 states including Kentucky and Indiana.

“They just feel like they're dying or want to die because it’s so fast and they just feel so poor,” Pattengale said.

This is an earlier peak season than normal, which typically occurs from January to February. Symptoms often include a high fever, cough, runny nose, congestion, severe muscle fatigue and feeling tired.

If you experience these sudden symptoms, medical professionals say to immediately get to your primary care doctor. But before that even happens, they say the flu shot is the number one way of preventing the flu.

The virus is also extremely contagious because it's spread via droplets. That means the virus can simply be spread by talking, coughing or sneezing.

“But the best way to prevent it is in hand hygiene and what we call respiratory hygiene or cough etiquette ... coughing into your elbow, not necessarily your hand because then you touch things,” Pattengale said.

Now that the flu is here, there's no telling how long it could last.

“It's here and it could last for a few months. It's going to be severe. The most important thing is get your flu shot,” Pattengale said.

Flu season typically lasts from October to March, but it could extend into the spring months.

At least 3 people in Kentucky have died from the flu this season.

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