With that in mind, state and federal health officials want you to know that it's not too late to get a flu shot. Although flu season begins in the fall, it typically peaks in January and February, and it can continue as late as May.
Find out where to get a flu shot near you. You can also use this Flu Vaccine Finder at flu.gov.
Although the current flu season started slower than the past one, the CDC said "significant increases" in flu activity have occurred across the country in the last couple of weeks. This week, 25 states — including Virginia — are reporting widespread flu activity and another 20 are reporting regional activity. The District of Columbia reported sporadic influenza activity.
According to the CDC, the increased activity indicates that flu season is definitely here.
"If you have not gotten your flu vaccination yet this season, you should get one now," the CDC recommends. "A flu vaccine is the first and best way to protect yourself and the people around you from influenza and its potentially serious complications."
Have you gotten a flu shot? Do you always get one? Never get one? Tell us why or why not in the comments section below.
During the 2012-2013 flu season, the CDC estimated that 381,000 Americans were hospitalized from the flu, while there were 31.8 million cases of "influenza-like illness." In a report released in December, the CDC estimated that flu vaccinations prevented an additional 79,000 hospitalizations and 6.6 million illnesses.
Despite the benefits of vaccination and the potential severity of the flu, CDC also announced last month that fewer than half of Americans have gotten vaccinated so far this season.
The CDC recommends that everyone aged 6 months and older get a flu vaccination — either a shot or nasal spray — each year to protect themselves and their loved ones against the flu.
This season’s flu vaccine is designed to protect against three to four influenza viruses, depending on which vaccine you get. All of the vaccine options this season include protection against pH1N1.
Vaccination is especially important for people who are at high risk of serious flu-related complications, like young children and people 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic medical conditions, like asthma, diabetes and heart disease.
For more information about influenza, its symptoms, prevention and treatment, or cases reported, you can visit flu.gov, the CDC, the Virginia Department of Health, or the District of Columbia Department of Health.