JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is calling this flu season a “near-epidemic." The number of flu cases is on the rise and so is the severity of the symptoms. In many cases across the country, it’s been deadly.

The lab at Florida’s Mayo Clinic is seeing an unprecedented number of influenza patients, with about three times the number of flu lab tests this year. For January, 32 percent of those tests rated positive for the flu, normally that’s under 10 percent.

Dr. Vandana Bhide, the assistant professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, said it’s not too late to get the vaccine and urges everyone to get it as soon as possible.

“January and February is at the height of the influenza season,” Bhide said. “It will prevent people from getting really sick, and even death.”

Historically the flu season runs through March, but she said this year, it could run longer.

“It’s just that this particular strain, for whatever reason, is very strong,” she said. “For elderly patients, over 80 years old, it could honestly mean the difference between life and death.”

Anyone over the age of 50 and below the age of 4 are the most susceptible for being hospitalized with the flu. Newborns are especially at risk, which is why she says all parents, including pregnant women, should get the flu vaccine.

Bhide also helped debunk some Flu myths:

1) Can you get the flu from the flu vaccine?

BHIDE: No, you may not feel well or have a low fever, but there is no physical way to get the flu virus from the flu vaccine.

2) Does the flu increase in the south because of the snowbirds who travel here?

BHIDE: Our population increases in the winter because we have a lot of people visiting, so the truth is that it does spread more.

3) Does the “FluMist” still work?

BHIDE: No, officially you should not use the flu mist.

4) Can you catch the flu by going out in the cold with wet hair or without a coat?

BHIDE: I think that is a myth. Influenza is a viral agent. The reason we talk about the winter is because we are in close quarters with more people in the winter time.

5) Should you feed a cold, starve a fever?

BHIDE: People become malnourished, you never want to starve anything. Protein helps your body recover and can help with any medicine you’re taking. Just don’t take aspirin when you have the flu.

6) Can chicken noodle soup really help when you’re sick?

BHIDE: Yes, we don’t know if it’s a placebo effect or if it really works, but dozens of studies have shown a positive link.