LEWISTON (NEWS CENTER Maine)-- It’s been one of the worst flu seasons in Maine history but doctors are warning—things could get a lot worse before this flu season is over.

The sheer number of people who are suffering from a variety of flu symptoms is putting the biggest burden on hospitals, which are working hard to both protect and treat patients.

Hospitals all around Maine are dealing with this flu outbreak in many different ways. Some are canceling all elective, non-emergency surgeries, to free up hospital space for those who are very ill. At Central Maine Medical Center, they’re asking all adults to leave children behind when they visit the hospital.

► Here's some more info on the flu outbreak from the CDC

“Definitely, try to reduce the visits,” urged Dr. Doug Collins. He works in CMMC’s Emergency Department. “In this time of influenza season, we need to practice caution that we don’t pass on an infection to somebody else.”

Dr. Collins has worked in CMMC’s ER for the past 17 years—and says this is the 2nd worst outbreak he’s seen, just behind the Swine Flu outbreak of April, 2009 and August, 2010.

“The fevers, the muscle aches, the joint aches and then it can cause more problems for people with respiratory conditions or heart conditions.” High fevers, 102 degrees and above and which last several days should not be ignored. Dr. Collins cautions fevers such as these should trigger a trip to urgent care or to a local hospital emergency room.

► Is the flu near you? Check out the Portland Press Herald’s interactive county map which tracks the cases through Feb. 3, 2018

This outbreak is proving difficult to contain because it is everywhere. It has worked its way inside the walls of hospitals around the world, including Lewiston-based CMMC, infecting those who work hard to treat the sick.

“We’ve had both the physicians and the nurses, our ED techs and secretaries, all have unfortunately been victims of the flu themselves.”

This flu strain has been a deadly one—resulting in 43 deaths this flu season here in Maine, and heading toward a thousand hospitalizations. You can help yourself by staying healthy.

Seven tips from a pediatrician on how to protect kids from the flu

According to Dr. Collins, here’s what you can do: get a flu shot---it’s never too late, plus if you do get the flu, it can reduce the time you’re sick plus help prevent you from spreading it.

Wash your hands…a lot. Use a hand sanitizer…Dr. Collins recommends Purell.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth – areas where the infection gets in.

“This one, very similar to the swine flu, is very virulent so it gets into the body and reproduces very quickly it can also produce a very strong immune response.”

The most worrisome symptom to Dr. Collins? Patients suffering from respiratory conditions.

“People who are having difficulty breathing, especially if they already have lung or heart conditions, that’s going to make it a potentially serious illness for them and those are the ones who need the help the most.”