I hope you got your flu shot, because the San Francisco Bay Area is dealing with a "widespread" influenza outbreak before flu season has likely even peaked. As local public health officials are telling the East Bay Times, flu cases have been increasing, and the virus specimen samples that have been taken locally have "match[ed] very closely to the current vaccine strains," meaning that the currently available flu shot should be highly effective, and you should still get one if you haven't.

According to the Associated Press, there have been three flu-related deaths locally, with one each in Monterey, Solano and Napa counties, and flu season typically does not peak until February.

The CDC is on a campaign to get people to still go get flu shots, too.

The East Bay Times actually refers to five flu-related deaths in the greater Bay Area, all in adults younger than 65, suggesting a particularly severe strain of the virus. The worst flu cases tend to occur in older adults, pregnant women, and children under five.

Meanwhile, to our north, in the Seattle region, "at least" 18 flu-related deaths have already been recorded, according to Fox affliate Q13.

Contra Costa County Health Officer Dr. William Walker and San Francisco Health Officer Dr. Tomas Aragon issued a joint statement Friday urging people to get flu shots, saying, "Influenza vaccination is a safe and effective way to protect you and your family from the flu," and urging those who come down with flu symptoms to stay home until they've been symptom-free for 24 hours.

As Santa Clara County health officer Dr. Sara Cody tells the East Bay Times, "For many people, the flu can mean feeling miserable for a few days. But for others, including very young children, the elderly, and those with chronic health problems or weakened immune systems, the flu can lead to severe illness and even death.”

But, to be sure, some sniffles and sneezes and feeling crappy does not necessarily mean you have the flu — the flu tends to knock a person out of commission for a few days the way typical cold viruses do not.

And remember: Sneeze into your elbow!