“Getting vaccinated is the best line of defense against flu,” said Acting State Public Health Officer Dr. Charity Dean. “Vaccination will help you stay healthy for work or school, avoid visits to the doctor or hospitalization, and protect others from coming down with the flu.”

The California Department of Public Health urged Californians to get the influenza vaccine to protect your health, and the health of others, during this flu season, in a press release last week.

In California, flu usually begins to increase in late November or December, the release states. It takes a couple of weeks after vaccination for the body to build immunity, so now is the time to get vaccinated to have the best protection now the flu season has started.

“Getting vaccinated is the best line of defense against flu,” said Acting State Public Health Officer Dr. Charity Dean. “Vaccination will help you stay healthy for work or school, avoid visits to the doctor or hospitalization, and protect others from coming down with the flu.”

A person with the flu may be contagious and infect others before they even feel sick.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during the 2017–2018 season, flu immunization prevented an estimated seven million illnesses and 8,000 deaths in the United States.

Flu vaccines are administered as a shot or nasal spray. For the 2019-20 flu season, the CDC recommends vaccination with no preference for any one vaccine type over another.

CDPH recommends the annual flu vaccination for everyone six months of age and older. While anyone can get the flu, pregnant women, children under five, adults 65 years of age and older, and people with chronic conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes and asthma are particularly at risk for flu-related complications. Flu vaccinations are needed every year to maintain the greatest protection because the vaccine changes each year to match circulating viruses and annual vaccination boosts immunity.

For pregnant women, flu complications can include premature birth, low birth weight, and stillbirth of the baby. Besides helping prevent flu complications, flu vaccine given during pregnancy also helps protect babies from flu infection for several months after birth, before the baby can be immunized, which is a time that babies are at high risk for flu complications.

Common symptoms of the flu, which typically develop within a few days of exposure, include fever or feeling feverish, a cough and/or sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, chills, fatigue and body aches. Children may also have nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

To stop the spread of flu and other respiratory illnesses, you should also:

• Stay home while sick and limit contact with others.

• Cover coughs or sneezes with your sleeve or disposable tissue.

• Wash hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

CDPH encourages Californians to contact their health care provider, physician’s office or clinic about getting the flu vaccine. When flu vaccine is in stock, adults with Medi-Cal can also get immunized at the pharmacy where they generally pick up their prescriptions. Some local health departments may also offer low- or no-cost flu immunizations.

For more information about the flu, visit CDPH’s website.