Each season, nearly 111 million workdays are lost in the United States because of the flu. That equals about $7 billion a year in sick days and lost productivity.

This year could be worse.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that flu activity in recent days has picked up across the country. The flu already has claimed the lives of at least 147 young and middle-aged people in California. That's 10 times the number killed by influenza viruses by the same time last year, health officials said.

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