Flu Near You data current through January 10, 2013.

With the season’s peak still weeks away, the flu’s grip over communities across the country has people in record numbers calling in sick from work and even inundating local hospital emergency rooms. The virulent bug has become so widespread that Boston Mayor Thomas Menino has declared a public health emergency in the city where 700 people have been sickened and four have died because of the flu.

It has also prompted a tremendous uptick in activity on Flu Near You, a website that tracks flu trends in real time. The site, launched in 2011 in partnership with APHA, HealthMap and the Skoll Global Threats Fund, is considered one of the first disease surveillance tools that allows the public to play a critical role in tracking the disease. Registrants log in once a week to complete brief weekly surveys that tracks flu.

“We have over 38 thousand volunteers in the Flu Near You system right now, compared to just 10 thousand before the start of the 2012-2013 flu season. We’re thrilled that people are signing up to help us keep track of what might turn out to be a very severe flu season, “ said Michelle Holshue, APHA’s Flu Near You fellow.

Google searches for flu are also at an all-time high. Record activity on its Flu Trends site paints a sea of red across the country.

Health officials say the best way to protect yourself against the flu is to get vaccinated. And it’s not too late to get the vaccine, if you haven’t already. This year’s vaccine supply is a good match but running low. To find a flu shot provider near you, go to HealthMap Vaccine Finder.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide guidance on who should get vaccinate against the flu.