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Americans are being urged to get the influenza vaccine this year as infection rates hit epidemic proportions.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pneumonia and the flu were responsible for more than 7 percent of deaths across the country last week.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES AT THE NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH, SAYING:
"The fact is it's much better to get vaccinated than to not get vaccinated and vaccination even though it isn't perfect can not only protect you from infection but even if you do get infected, if you're vaccinated it is highly likely that the vaccine will dampen the severity of the illness you get."
The early start to this year's flu season has already overwhelmed hospitals and doctors' offices.
Medical experts say most are falling victim to the particularly virulent H3N2 influenza strain.
Earlier authorities in Boston declared a state of emergency due to the region's major influenza outbreak.
Tens of thousands of Americans die from the flu annually, with children and the elderly especially vulnerable to viral infections.