Like many other areas of the country, Philadelphia is undergoing a flu epidemic. But the city's health commissioner says people should just take normal precautions.

Health Commissioner Dr. Donald Schwartz says Philadelphia is basically having a normal flu season, but because the incidence of flu over past few years has been under the norm, people are panicking. So far, the flu has hit 47 states, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

"What makes this epidemic noteworthy is that it started so early this year," he Schwartz said. "Just so that everyone is clear, my message is that this is influenza, it's not more than influenza, it's not super influenza, it's not unusual influenza. It's influenza."

Schwartz says he has five tips for people. The first is to get a flu shot. The second, he says, "Get a flu shot."

"The vast majority, 98 percent plus, of influenza is vaccine preventable," he said to explain his double dose of advice. "If people get immunized, they will do the most important thing to prevent influenza."

Schwartz says people should wash their hands often and thoroughly, stay home if they have the flu and make sure they cover sneezes and coughs to help prevent the flu from spreading.

Several thousand people have been hospitalized with flu-like symptoms around the country, and 20 children have died of flu-related illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.