EAU CLAIRE/ELK MOUND, Wisc. (WEAU) (AP) - The flu season is off to an early start with four deaths already reported in the Wisconsin.
At least 26 people have also now been hospitalized with the flu.
Workers said in the last two to three flu seasons, no flu-related hospitalizations in Wisconsin were reported before Jan.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and prevention said it's the earliest flu season in nearly a decade.
Elk Mound Marshfield Clinic nurse practitioner Billie Hague said she's not surprised by the numbers and that the best way to avoid or lessen the effects of the flu is to get vaccinated.
"Only about 40 percent or fewer in the us are vaccinated, it could be a longer and more severe season simply because of that," Hague said.
"The flu viruses mutate and change every year and it's really difficult to predict when things are going to peak, and typically the peak months are Jan. and Feb. But it does look like we're seeing an increase right now where the flu season could peak around Christmastime," she said.
But medical experts said there are other ways to strengthen the immune system and keep the flu away, through diet and exercise.
"The American Heart Association says cardio five days a week, but strength training, weight lifting, body weight exercises are also very important, at least two times a week. So having those two plus nutrition is your best bet to fight flu symptoms," Gold's Gym personal trainer Jenna Gentman said.
"Eating a well balanced diet helps keep your body in optimal condition to fight off any kind of disease," Eau Claire Sacred Heart registered dietitian Susan Kasik-Miller said.
"Foods that are very rich in color, things like berries and yellow vegetables all contain a lot of antioxidants and Vitamin A which help fight off diseases and help keep you healthy during the winter months."
The Eau Claire City County Health Department said it hasn't heard of any flu cases in the area.