FARMINGTON — The health department says a strain of influenza being reported this year causes more severe symptoms than are typical.

The New Mexico Department of Health issued a warning because influenza has already been confirmed in the state. This is several weeks before the virus normally appears.

The department is encouraging people to get a flu shot to ward off the bug.

The severe strain of flu that has been found in New Mexico is covered in this year's vaccine. In years where this strain is found, there are more hospitalizations and deaths attributed to the flu, the health department said.

"Even though flu season has arrived, it is not too late to get vaccinated," Dr. Michael Landen, the state epidemiologist, said in a statement.

No one hospitalized at San Juan Regional Medical Center has been confirmed to have the flu, said Penny Hill, the infection control manager at the hospital.

She said flu season typical starts in January.

"So it is a few weeks early," she said.

She said the hospital has vaccinated 90 percent of its employees and that free flu vaccine clinics offered earlier this year by the hospital were well attended.

She encouraged people to talk to their doctors or get a flu vaccine at a pharmacy of the public health office.

"It is especially important for adults over 65 years of age, children six months through four years of age, pregnant women, and everyone with certain underlying conditions to get vaccinated as soon as possible," Landen said.