The New Jersey Department of Health recommends that residents get the seasonal flu vaccine during National Influenza Vaccination Week Dec. 4-10.

While seasonal flu outbreaks can happen as early as October, flu activity is usually highest from December to February, and as long as flu activity is ongoing, it’s not too late to get vaccinated, even in January or later, health officials said.

“Now is a great time to get the flu vaccine in anticipation of family gatherings during the holiday season,” Health Commissioner Cathleen Bennett said. “Getting the vaccine is the most important step you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones from flu, which can cause serious illness and death in some.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older. Certain people are at greater risk for serious complications if they get sick with the flu. Those at high risk include:

  • Children younger than age 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old.
  • People age 65 and older.
  • Pregnant women and women up to two weeks after end of pregnancy.
  • American Indians and Alaskan natives.
  • People who have medical conditions such as asthma, heart disease and diabetes.

Flu vaccination should also be a priority for people who live with or care for people who are vulnerable to developing flu-related complications, officials said.

Children younger than 6 months old are too young to get vaccinated. Anyone who has ever had a severe allergic reaction to the flu vaccine also should not get a flu shot; however, it is highly recommended that those around them be vaccinated to provide a circle of protection.

For the 2016-2017 season, the CDC is recommending only injectible flu shots be used. The nasal spray flu vaccine (live attenuated influenza vaccine or LAIV) should not be used during 2016-2017 based on concerns about its effectiveness. This recommendation applies to the 2016–2017 season only.

“A person’s immune protection from vaccine declines over time, so annual flu vaccination is needed for the best protection against the flu,” Deputy Health Commissioner Dr. Arturo Brito said. “In addition to receiving an annual flu vaccine, other steps to prevent the flu include washing your hands thoroughly and frequently, covering your coughs and sneezes, and staying home when you are sick.”

He said flu vaccines are safe and effective and are offered in many locations including doctor’s offices, clinics, health departments, urgent care centers, and pharmacies. For general flu information and to find where flu shots are offered see nj.gov/flu.

Follow the New Jersey Department of Health on Twitter at twitter.com/NJDeptofHealth and on Facebook at facebook.com/NJDeptofHealth.

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