Haven't protected against the flu by getting vaccinated? It's not too late.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is highlighting the importance of the flu vaccine this week, which has been designated National Influenza Vaccination Week (Dec. 3 to 9).
The CDC established the week in 2005 "to highlight the importance of continuing flu vaccination through the holiday season and beyond," a time that recent flu season statistics show few people get vaccinated, according to its website.
Estimates from previous seasons show few people get vaccinated against influenza, or the flu, after the end of November, the CDC says.
Only around 40 percent of the U.S. population recommended for the vaccine last season, reported receiving it by the end of November, according to the agency.
Anyone can get the flu, but there are some people who are at risk for complications, Dr. Teresa Foo, immunization medical consultant for the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, explains in an SCDHEC-provided video about the flu and flu vaccination.
Those at risk for complications include young children, older adults – especially those over 65 – and anyone with chronic medical conditions, Foo said.
The most common symptoms of the flu are fever, muscle aches and general fatigue. A person may also experience a cough or nasal congestion.
Health experts say the single best way to prevent getting the flu is receiving the vaccination each year.
According to the CDC, flu vaccines work by causing antibodies to protect against infection, and they develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination.
The vaccine provided each season will protect against the viruses that are most common in the approaching season, the agency says.
Even people who haven't been vaccinated and have already gotten sick with the flu can still benefit from the vaccination as it protects against three or four different viruses, according to its website.
That hinges on the type of flu vaccine a person gets.
For this year's season, the CDC says online the annual flu vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months or older "with either the inactivated influenza vaccine or the recombinant influenza vaccine," and the nasal spray flu vaccine should not be used during 2017-18.
There isn't a preference, however, for one of the recommended and approved flu vaccines, it states. Specific questions about vaccination should be directed to primary care doctors or health care professionals.
The best place to get the vaccine is at a location that is familiar, Foo said.
"That may be at your local DHEC health department, your health care provider, a local pharmacy or other options including employers or other clinics," she said.
Foo reminds South Carolinians flu shots are also avialable at local DHEC health departments. People can call the appointment line, 1-800-868-0404, for questions.
While the vaccine is the best preventative measure, Foo said there are some other tips to remember as well during flu season.
"Make sure you're just generally staying healthy, getting exercise, plenty of sleep, eating well, and making sure to wash your hands and stay away from anyone who's sick," Foo said.
For answers to frequently asked questions about the 2017-18 flu season, visit the CDC website at cdc.gov.
More information on the flu in South Carolina can be found at scdhec.gov.