The flu is getting a bit of an early start, which leads medical personnel to say it is time to take preventative action, such as a flu shot, to protect yourself.

“Although epidemic levels of the flu are unlikely until December, we have already had a few sporadic cases of both influenza A and B in our community,” said Dr. Hardin Coleman, of Scottsboro. “So now is the ideal time to get vaccinated.”

Coleman said everyone over 6 months of age should get vaccinated.

“I do prioritize the very young and the elderly as they have a higher complication rate from influenza,” said Coleman. “However, I also advise folks of all ages that they are also helping to prevent the flu in their children and grandparents by getting vaccinated.”

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), during the 2017-2018 flu season, illnesses reached 49 million people; flu hospitalization totaled 960,000 and the number of flu deaths was approximately 79,000.

According to the CDC, one person with the flu can infect other people one day before symptoms develop, and up to about seven days after a person becomes sick. The virus can spread to others up to six feet away, mainly by microscopic droplets expelled into the air when people cough, sneeze or even talk.

The CDC also reports all Americans receiving a flu vaccine could dramatically reduce healthcare costs, along with the number of people infected with the flu. Research found annual direct flu costs, such as hospital stays, medications and doctor’s visits for adults, are an estimated $10.4 billion.

The flu causes U.S. employees to miss approximately 17 million work days at an estimated $7 billion a year in sick days and lost productivity.

Coleman said the peak benefit of influenza vaccine is for six months.

“We often have flu season extend into March,” he said.

Alabamians can get a flu shot by visiting their physician or local pharmacy. Flu shots will be offered to the general public at the Jackson County Health Department on Friday, Oct. 18, from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. Bring your insurance card or payment of $5.

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