Health officials in Windsor-Essex are urging people to get the flu shot now that the number of flu cases has risen to 97.

According to the region's medical officer of health, Dr Alan Heimann, there has been fewer than five confirmed flu-related deaths this year. He also said the "vast majority" of people getting the flu virus are under 40 years of age.

"It's still an extremely unpleasant illness to have," said Heimann. "Certainly it can last 7-10 days. It's definitely not pleasant at all. It's something you want to avoid."

The CEO of Windsor Regional Hospital, David Musyj, said the strain on hospital services has increased alongside the swelling numbers of people with the flu.

"The number of individuals on respirators is higher than we've seen in previous flu or winter seasons, between both campuses," Musyj said.

Not everyone with the flu needs to be hospitalized, according to Erika Vitale, Windsor Regional's Manager of Infection and Prevention Control. But everyone should know when a case becomes serious enough to warrant a trip to emergency.

"Many cases of influenza you can manage at home," she said. "However, you should be looking for certain things as to when to seek medical care. Such as difficultly breathing, chest pain, dizziness, confusion, or severe consistent vomiting."

Heimann said the most people who have contracted the flu this year did not get their flu shot. Both he and Musyj urged people to get immunized. 

Heimann said there are at least 70 pharmacies in the region that can provide the flu shot. He added that flu season stretches into late March.

Other than getting immunized, health officials urged people to take preventative measures such as frequently washing hands, covering your cough, and not going to parties or work when you don't feel well.

Eight people were hospitalized due to influenza during the week of Dec. 21. Two of those people were admitted to intensive care.