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BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. -- The flu season is getting worse, weeks before its usual peak.

Health officials say it's shaping up to be as bad as the 2009 H1N1 outbreak.

Th flu is widespread now in more than two-thirds of the country.

Many came down with the flu over holiday break and now some could be bringing it to work.

Before you head to the doctor for a diagnosis, it's important to know that the flu isn't a head cold.

Dr. Melody Mendiola at Hennepin County Medical Center's Brooklyn Center Clinicsaid, "Influenza is a high fever, aching in every bone in your body, a little bit of a cough. It really can knock you off your feet for a good four or five days."

Mendiola, who specializes in internal medicine, said patients at the clinic are asking for prescriptions for Tamiflu to shorten their illness.

She said it can help, saying, "It would probably shorten it anywhere from one to three days."

But Tamiflu needs to be taken as soon as symptoms start, Mendiola said, "Within 24, 48 hours for sure. It really it doesn't do much of anything after 48 hours."

If you are able to get to your clinic within a day of those symptoms coming on, you may or may not be given a prescription.

Mendiola said, "We want to try to make sure that we save it so that we have enough supplies and for the people that are most at risk, so elderly people, people with chronic health conditions, really the people that are most at risk for being hospitalized."

She said that young, usually healthy people will likely be told to go home and rest.

Mendiola said she has not heard of a shortage of Tamiflu here yet, but she said, "It's a pretty heavy season. We've seen a lot of people with flu symptoms and testing positive."

To avoid getting the flu, Dr. Mendiola said get a flu shot. Washing your hands also helps.

She urges people who get the flu to please stay home until they are well, that is 24 hours after their fever breaks, without fever reducing medication.

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