WOODBURY - Officials are warning of a flu epidemic that's sweeping the nation and Long Island.

Flu season started early this year, and experts say the strain is more severe.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the flu was widespread in 47 states last week, up from 41 the week before.

Dr. Bruce Hirsch, of North Shore-Long Island Jewish, urges residents to get the flu shot. He says people with the flu should not go to the hospital unless they have a fever above 102 degrees, confusion, shortness of breath or an underlying condition. Otherwise, Hirsch says sick people should get lots of rest and drink plenty of fluids.

To watch an extended interview with Hirsch, click News 12 Extra on Optimum TV channel 612.