You got the flu shot and got sick anyway; still a good idea

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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) It starts abruptly and as the symptoms mount, you quickly learn whether its just a cold or the real thing.

Fever? It's most likely the flu. Ditto, if you have a headache. Sniffles and sore throat? Could be either.

Those who contact their doctor become part of the statistics of this flu season. People at the Washoe County Health District track the flu on a weekly basis and there's little debate about the trend.

The latest figures show 128 patients hospitalized with a flu-like illness, three deaths so far and those numbers are expected to grow, but the raw numbers don't really tell the whole story.

"If we only relied on confirmed cases, we'd be getting just the tip of the iceberg," says Dr. Randall Todd of the Washoe County District Health Department.

We have in the past few weeks moved beyond a local problem to widespread, a result we might have expected. Nevada ranks dead last in the percentage of those who get immunized, and it turned out this year the shot was no guarantee.

"Certain strains of flu are harder to vaccinate against than others," says Dr. Todd, "and the H3N2 strain that is dominant this year is unfortunately one of those that is most difficult."

But--here's the surprise. You're still ahead of the game if you were immunized and there's a good reason, even at this point, to get the shot.

"There aren't very many of these studies, but they are starting to come out now that suggest it will reduce the severity of your illness and the duration of your illness even if you do get the flu."

And there's still plenty of flu season left. There's no indication it has peaked yet.

The Centers for Disease Control has a list of symptoms to help you determine if you have the flu or just a cold.

That diagnosis is important because the anti-viral medications available should be taken with 48 hours of you coming down with the flu, though there's some evidence they're a good idea even after that deadline, especially for those in a high risk group.