Here we are, right in the middle of one of the worst flu seasons the United States has seen in a long time. Even with the appropriate preventative measures being taken and infection treatments being administered, this strain of influenza has been more aggressive than predicted. While symptoms of the common cold seem pretty bad, lasting 48 hours to 10 days, they typically allow for recovery in 10 days. Flu symptoms are similar and sometimes mask themselves as a cold, but are much more intense and potentially deadly.

As this season peaks, Senator Schumer has asked the federal government for help fighting the spread of the illness around New York City. The flu is particularly contagious, especially in communities that share such immediate proximities as NYC. Asking for a flu fighting surveillance team, they’re looking at an unprecedented flu season:

At least 5,267 people have been hospitalized around the state so far this flu season, compared with 3,533 for all of last season. A flu season typically peaks in February but continues until May. Nearly 20,000 New York residents have come down with the flu this season.

The data this team would collect is meant to monitor the direction and rate of the spread of the illness, taking into account what strains are causing the most damage. This information would be used to inform treatment, medical staffing, and the predictive development of new influenza vaccinations.

Outside of New York, the whole country has seen a more severe flu season causing school closings in 11 (and counting) states, unusually high hospitalization rates, and several fatalities. Per usual, the age groups being hit the hardest are young children and the elderly but this flu strain (H3N2) has shown no quarter to age groups with the strongest immune systems, citing the speed at which the virus is mutating and the severity of its effects.

The Center for Disease control only records pediatric deaths in cases of influenza and won’t have a full report until next season, but the current state of affairs is much more severe that it has ever been: “It killed seven children this week alone, according to authorities. Additionally, hospitalizations have shot up from 36.9 people out of every 100,000 last week to 41.9 per every 100,000 this week.” Medical authorities still say the most effective tool against the flu is getting the flu shot and proper daily hygiene practices. It’s never too late to receive the shot and regardless of perceived effectiveness or your assumed personal immunity, any precautions taken against this influenza strain are highly recommended.

The flu doesn’t keep itself in certain geographical locations, so care should be taken everywhere. Prevention and awareness are crucial to staying healthy this winter and, in the case of illness, proper treatment and timely medical care are paramount to fighting an illness entering peak season.