BOISE -- The flu season is here early this year. Health officials tell us they normally see the first cases of influenza in December, but there are already several clusters in the area.

The Department of Health and Welfare says they've seen the sickness pop up in both school and long-term health care facilities already. Now, they want to make sure parents and senior citizens are aware.

The department's spokesperson says this year the illness is here several weeks early. She says while it's difficult to track the exact numbers of cases, but they know the cases are up from this time last year.

Dr. Matt Eastman with St. Alphonsus tells us the last flu season was not quite as bad as normal. And says it's hard to know what to expect since each season is different.

Dr. Eastman says the best way to prevent the influenza is, of course, the vaccine.

I always tell parents that if you want to keep the flu out of your house, then vaccinate your kids, because your kids are the ones in the schools, swimming in a pool of virus, so it gets into your house through your children, said Dr. Eastman.

Dr. Eastman tells us besides the vaccine, the best method for making sure your family doesn't get the flu, is washing your hands often.

He says the respiratory virus is hard to predict. But says this time of year, both senior citizens and children should take extra precautions to stay healthy.

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