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How to protect your family during longest flu season in recent memory

More to protect your family during long season in recent memory “/> Chris Hondros / Getty Images Headlines

MADISON, Wis. – The CDC says this season is now the longest in decades. While it may be the longest, local experts say it's not nearly as bad as they've seen in recent years, but it's not yet.

This year's flu season's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been one of the longest since 1997 when it started keeping records, and it is the longest in the past decade. Health experts say it also ramped up much later this year compared to normal, and we're going to be dealing with it for a few weeks yet.

So far this season, up to 41.3 million people showed flu symptoms, with up to 19.4 million visiting the doctor and as many as 610,000 hospitalized.

Nurse epidemiologist Ellen Smith at St. Mary's Hospital tells News 3 Now it's one of the oddest flu seasons she's seen in Madison over the years. "" We're still seeing some significant illness in the community, "Smith explained. "Even though it may seem like some of the cases are decreasing as numbers go, you want to protect yourself and protect your family, and more than one strain of influenza out there, so it's important to protect yourself as much as possible and protect your loved ones. "

While the flu season is running late and running long this year, Smith says they've only seen about a third of the cases so far, compared to last year, and only half as many as the year before.

One reason for the long flu season is that two types of flu viruses surfaced at different times. The beginning of the season was H1N1, and then that went down, H3N2 viruses went up.

While flu cases are declining, Smith says the virus can still spread even in the warmer weather. That's part of the reason why she still encourages you to get the shot if you haven't already done so. We checked and still available at many locations around the community.

Along with the flu shot, Smith also encourages those common-sense precautions like washing hands and staying home when sick to prevent spreading.

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