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CDC Reporting High Levels Of Flu Across Much Of U.S.

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A man receives a flu shot. (Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images)

A man receives a flu shot. (Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images)

CBS SF Bay (con't)

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(CBS) – The flu started early and the virus is spreading rapidly. In an update Friday, the Centers for Disease Control reports a high level of flu activity in 29 states and a moderate level in nine others. Health officials say it’s not too late to get vaccinated. We look at who should get the flu shot.

Seventeen-year-old Max Schwolert came down with the flu. Later, he took a turn for the worse and was soon airlifted to a Minnesota hospital.

“It was really just a snowball effect over several days,” said Phil Schwolert, Max’s uncle. “Doctors made a few brief periods of some progress but just were never really able to get ahead of things and his body honestly just couldn’t keep up.”

Related Link: CDC Flu Information

The flu virus can weaken a person’s natural defenses. Max, who did not get a flu shot, developed a bacterial infection and pneumonia. It caused his organs to shut down. He died on Dec. 29.

“Influenza causes death often through its complications, said Lyn Finelli, who tracks flu for the CDC. “Especially in the elderly, influenza causes death through pneumonia and through exacerbation of chronic underlying conditions.”

Eighteen children have died from influenza-related illnesses since the flu season began.

“It’s an extremely early flu season,” said Finelli. “In fact, we’re about five weeks ahead of schedule this year.”

Since 2010, the CDC has recommended flu shots for everyone over the age of six months. Yet only 37 percent of Americans have been vaccinated this season, which is about average.

I asked the CDC what is the number one misconception that people have about the flu. They said it’s the mistaken belief that the flu vaccine can give you the flu. The CDC said it cannot — it can give you a reaction, you might have some aches and pains and low-grade fever, but that should go away in a day or two. They said it’s especially important this year when it’s such an active flue to get vaccinated — they said it’s the number one way to prevent the flu.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and CBS Interactive. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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