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MIKE STOBBE
AP Medical Writer

NEW YORK (AP/KSDK) - The flu season arrived early in the U.S. this year, but health officials and experts say it's too early to say this will be a bad one.

Experts say evidence so far is pointing to a moderate flu season - it just looks worse because last year's season was so mild.

Flu usually doesn't blanket the country until late January or February. Now, it's already widespread in more than 40 states. That could change when the next government report comes out Friday.

There are a few factors complicating the situation. The main flu virus this year tends to make people sicker. And there are other bugs out there causing flu-like illnesses. So what some people are calling the flu may, in fact, be something else.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, Missouri is ranked in the "high" category for flu activity.

Pam Bretweiser, Director of Community Services for the Visiting Nurses Association, says medical attention should be sought as soon as symptoms begin because treatment can reduce the amount of time spent sick, though the flu can last from one to two weeks.

But when should you seek emergency treatment?

You should go to the emergency room if you are having trouble breathing, have a severe headache, stiff neck, or are having trouble staying awake.

Baby younger than three months should receive emergency treatment if they have a high fever.

Visit the CDC's websiteto use an interactive map that gives the flu illness report by state.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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