WASHINGTON — Health officials are urging everyone to get an annual flu vaccine, but they are paying special attention to health care workers and others who spend a lot of time with people who may be ill.
“It is really important that all health care workers receive the influenza vaccine each year to protect themselves, their patients and their families,” said Sarah Lineberger, an epidemiologist with the Virginia Department of Health. “Patients they work with are often more susceptible to severe complications of influenza.”
Flu season is quickly approaching.
It normally begins in early October and ends in late May, usually peaking in January.
“Getting vaccinated prior to the full swing of the season ensures that you will be protected,” Lineberger said.
Shots are available now at many locations including health care providers, local health departments and pharmacies.
According to Children’s National Health System pediatrician Linda Fu, the shots are very important for infants and children up to 8 years old getting vaccinated for the first time who might require two shots to be appropriately immunized.
“We are seeing the flu in the United States already,” Fu said.
It is important for children needing two shots a month apart from each other to get the first vaccination as soon as possible.
And if you are feeling sick, it is a good idea to seek help quickly.
“Tamiflu is helpful,” Fu said. “The important thing for using anti-viral medications is to get them early. They are most effective if they’re started within 48 hours of (developing) symptoms.”
However, there is no substitute for getting the flu shot.
“Vaccination is the best way to protect you from getting the flu,” Fu added.
With rare exceptions, it is recommended that everyone six months and older get vaccinated against the flu.
Experts say you should avoid the vaccines that come in nasal spray form.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found the spray was not as effective in preventing the spread of the flu during the influenza seasons in 2013-14 and 2015-16.
Both the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that it not be used.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.