Flu season hits early; get vaccine now

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) says that the flu season has started earlier than usual and recommends that people take steps to prevent the spread of flu.

“Every flu season is different, but usually cases of influenza reach their peak in January, February or even March,” said Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel, MD, MPH. “This year we are seeing a very rapid increase in influenza-like illness across Massachusetts, along with an increase in confirmed flu cases. This suggests that Massachusetts may be having an earlier start. It is important that we all take steps to prevent flu from spreading, including getting a flu shot because it is among the best protection we have.”

DPH recommends that people: Get the flu vaccine as soon as possible; wash their hands thoroughly and regularly, or use hand sanitizer; cover their coughs and sneezes; and stay home when they are sick with fever and cough or sore throat, if possible.

The flu vaccine takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against flu virus infection.

The flu virus is spread through droplets of saliva and mucus from the nose and mouth of someone who coughs or sneezes. Adults with flu can spread it from about one day before symptoms appear to about one week after. Children can spread the flu even longer after they get sick.

For more information about influenza, visit mass.gov/flu.