Just before the end of the year, a woman in her early 60's became the first person in Stanislaus County to die from the flu.

The sudden death is a grim reminder to take precautions during what could be one of the worst flu seasons in years.

“It's getting close to getting classified as severe I would say. Earlier this week, I would say it's a kind of a normal flu season, but it's continuing to get worse," said Stanislaus County County public health officer Dr. Julie Vaishampayan.

She says increased deaths and hospital stays across the state are indicators we may be in for a long ride when it comes to the flu.

“So we are being notified of more every day, yes," she said.

So, how do you know if you have the flu?

Symptoms to watch for include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue and in some cases vomiting or diarrhea.

But what are ways to avoid the flu?

Well, it's never too late to get a yearly flu vaccine, you can limit your contact with others who are sick, wash your hands often with soap and water, and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

One of the most common questions asked to health officials: Can I get the flu from getting a flu shot? Their answer, no.

“So you can't get the flu from the flu shot. The flu shot is made from killed and pieces of the virus so it really isn't possible," said Dr. Julie Vaishampayan.

The effectiveness of the flu shot last year was 30 percent for the H3N2 strain.

That same strain is what's hitting flu victims hard this year, and it won't be until May before the flu season goes away.