The Red Cross is urging Pennsylvanians who have yet to receive flu vaccine this year to take action and get vaccinated as soon as possible.

The Jan. 9 press release comes on the heels of a massive media campaign designed to inform the public of the seriousness of this year's flu epidemic.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, this flu season is one of the worst the U.S. has faced in "several years." Widespread flu outbreak has officially been reported in 41 states across the nation, with Pennsylvania being one of them.

Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre has not had a serious spike in flu cases dating back to November, but has received a steady stream of confirmed flu victims.

According to Public Relations Manager Carolyn Handrick, Robert Packer Hospital has confirmed 122 cases of flu so far this season. Gutherie Corning Hospital has reported 168 cases this season, and the Gutherie Troy Community hospital has confirmed 17 cases of flu since November.

Handrick explained that the Gutherie has a "Influenza Readiness Team" which meets weekly to go over flu statistics and plan for possible spikes in incoming patients.

Handrick reported that there is no shortage of doctors to care for incoming flu patients, and said, "There are more than enough beds and rooms for all of the flu patients we have received so far."

Handrick also noted that the hospital has not placed restrictions on visitation in regards to flu patients, and mentioned the hospital does offer masks and other safety equipment for visitors to take to control the spread of flu.

The CDC recommends flu vaccination for anyone over the age of six months old, and considers it the "first and most important" step in preventing the spread of the flu virus.

Local hospitals have confirmed an increase in patients since the outbreak occurred in mid December.

CDC charts show the outbreak has been slowing down, with a two week downtrend since New Years Day.

Still, the Red Cross is making it clear that vaccination should be a major consideration for those who have yet to receive it.

Those who may already be experiencing flu like symptoms are urged to contact their health-care provider if the following side effects are present; rapid breathing, problems breathing, pain or pressure in the chest area, confusion, dizziness, not drinking or eating enough, and having trouble waking up.

For children, side effects that should cause concern are; being very irritable, fever with a rash, no tears when crying, or significantly less wet diapers than normal.