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The flu is a highly contagious respiratory illness that can have serious health consequences, especially for older adults. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control more than 60% of flu-related hospitalizations occur in people age 65 or older.  In the United States, flu season occurs in the fall and winter. It starts as early as October, peaks in January or February, and ends as late as May.

The best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated. Annually researchers identify which strains of the virus will be most common during flu season. They then develop a vaccine that helps protect us from getting infected by these common strains.  Because it takes about two weeks for immunity to develop, it’s best to get a flu shot in early fall, before the flu season kicks into high gear. 

Additional steps you can take to help prevent the flu include:

  • Washing your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, or mouth (germs spread this way)
  • Avoiding close contact with sick people
  • Practicing good health habits (get plenty of sleep and exercise, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat healthy food)
  • Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze (throw the tissue in the trash after you use it)
  • Staying home if you are sick with flu-like illness for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.