The topic today in Neighborhood Health Watch is influenza - commonly known as the flu.
Symptoms can be mild to severe. It's a viral infection that attacks your respiratory system, your nose, throat and lungs.
For most people, influenza resolves on its own, but sometimes it can be deadly. Symptoms are high fever that comes on suddenly, cough, shaking chills, muscle aches and chest discomfort.
Flu is spread primarily by coughing and getting it on your nose or mouth, or you touch something with your hands, then touch your face. The flu vaccine is the best prevention.
Dr. Marsh Cuttino with Henrico Doctors' hospital says flu season has already started.
"It looks like it might be worse than usual," said Dr. Cuttino. "We are ahead of the spike from last year, and we have already had a number of flu positive cases in Virginia. Right now, it's at the sporadic level, but several other states are seeing it go much wider and more frequently.
"The vaccine does not cause the flu. It is an inactive form of the virus that cannot replicate. If you are sick, you may get some muscle aches and some mild... what we call myalgia. You may not feel as well as you normally would, but your immune system is generating the anti-bodies so that you can fight the flu when you are infected with it later on."
Dr. Cuttino says he gets a flu shot every year, and so should you. He says if you're healthy and you get the flu, Tylenol or Motrin is good for fever. Tami-flu, if taken within the first 48 hours, can shorten the length of the flu, but it won't cure it.
People over 65, under age 5, and those with health problems should see a doctor.