According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), It’s time to get your flu vaccine! While there is little flu activity right now, flu season usually begins in October, and flu activity is expected to increase in the coming weeks to months.

An annual flu vaccination is the best way to prevent the flu and the flu-related complications that could lead to hospitalization and even death. Health experts across the country recommend that everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine.

Over the years, the number of people recommended for flu vaccination grew steadily as experts learned more about who was at highest risk for flu complications or who was bearing the greatest burden of illness and possibly playing a role in spreading flu in the community.

Scientists and public health experts came to recognize that while influenza is particularly dangerous for certain people, it can cause severe illness and even death for anyone, regardless of whether or not they have high risk conditions.

Influenza is among the most common respiratory illnesses in the United States, infecting millions of people every flu season. However, only 46 percent of people 6 months of age and older were vaccinated during the 2011-12 season.

Every year, flu spreads across the country, from person to person, family to family, and community to community. The severity of flu illness can vary from mild to severe. When severe, flu complications can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Even healthy children and adults can get very sick from the flu.

“One of the greatest challenges we face from the flu is the uncertainty of the disease,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Flu viruses are constantly changing. Each flu season, different flu viruses can spread, and they can affect people differently based on their body’s ability to fight infection.”

Over a period of 31 seasons between 1976 and 2007, estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people. And, each year it’s estimated that more than 200,000 people are hospitalized because of flu-related complications.

People with certain long-term health conditions (e.g., heart disease, diabetes, asthma) are at greater risk of experiencing serious health complications as a result of flu. A flu vaccine is the first and best way to prevent influenza and is particularly important in people who are at higher risk of serious flu complications. For a complete list of people at highest risk, see https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/high_risk.htm.

Getting a flu vaccine is more convenient than ever before. Vaccines are available, for example, from your doctor or local health department, and at many retail pharmacies. Many employers, schools, colleges and universities also offer flu vaccines. Moreover, the annual vaccine supply continues to grow, helping to ensure that enough vaccine is available for everyone who wishes to be vaccinated.

There are some people who should not get a flu vaccine, for instance, people who have had a severe reaction to a flu vaccine or any of its components in the past. For more information about who should and who should not get vaccinated, visit https://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/whoshouldvax.htm.

For more information about the flu vaccine, go online to https://www.cdc.gov/flu  or https://www.flu.gov or call 1-800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636).