NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — An early surge of the flu has claimed at least 18 lives nationwide, and in New York, the number of cases is already more than three times what was seen last year.

As CBS 2’s Amy Dardashtian reported Wednesday, many tips are out there on how to avoid contracting the flu, which has seen widespread propagation in 41 states.

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There are even social media apps to help you track who gave you the flu. One Facebook app uses keywords such as “sneeze” and “cough” to track your infected friends.

“When people cough around me, I just sort of give them a little space,” one woman said.

Germs from a simple cough or sneeze can fly several feet into the air and land on common surfaces such as an ATM. The viruses can remain there for hours, and with the flu on the rise, all it takes is one touch and you can get infected.

Power foods can build immunity, but getting vaccinated is the best protection. Experts estimated that only one-third of people will get the vaccine.

“To be honest, I don’t think I need one,” a woman said.

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This year’s vaccine protects against about 90 percent of the active strains.

“We lose over 35,000 people a year in the U.S. alone to influenza,” Dr. Ian Lipkin said.

Lipkin said it is a good idea to create social distance and avoid shaking hands.

“I wave, I do a fist pump. I knock elbows. I bow,” he said.

Lipkin is an infectious disease expert depicted in the 2011 movie “Contagion.” He said the box office thriller about a deadly disease isn’t all drama.

“Our team at the Center for Infection Immunity is trying to identify the next virus, the next bacterium that could become pandemic,” he said.

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Do you have any advice for avoiding the flu? Please leave your comments below…