Seasonal influenza vaccinations are now available for children and qualifying adults at all Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) county health departments. Flu vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older as the best protection against the flu. “We recommend that all Mississippians get their flu shots every year, but especially this year with COVID-19. We don’t want to risk overwhelming our hospitals,” said MSDH State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers. Dr. Byers said that flu season can occur as early as November and as late as March in Mississippi, but usually peaks anywhere from December through February. Individual flu cases are not reported to MSDH, but the agency monitors flu activity through the ILI System, made up of healthcare providers in Mississippi who report the percentage of patients with flu-like symptoms to a statewide database. Providers participating in the system also submit respiratory samples for flu testing to the MSDH lab. State health officials use this information to determine the presence and spread of flu throughout the state. “We recommend getting vaccinated now before we reach peak flu activity. Influenza vaccine is especially important for young children, pregnant women, those over 65, and those with underlying health problems,” he said. “Flu vaccination is the best way to protect both children and adults from serious complications such as hospitalization, and in many cases, death.” Those 18 and under who are eligible for the Vaccines for Children program can receive a flu vaccination for $10. Insurance, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is accepted for children’s flu shots. A list of all VFC providers can be found at www.HealthyMS.com/vfc. Adults who are underinsured or uninsured and who meet certain high-risk criteria qualify for an adult flu vaccination at MSDH county health department clinics. Flu shots for insured adults are now widely available through private physicians, pharmacies and retail centers. Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, muscle and body aches, and fatigue. Most people recover from the flu without complications, but nationwide there are up to 200,000 hospitalizations from flu each year. While vaccination is the best protection, basic infection control measures can also reduce the spread of flu and should be taken whether or not individuals are vaccinated. These measures include covering your mouth when coughing and sneezing, staying at home when you or your children are sick, and washing your hands frequently. Wearing a face covering in public places offers additional protection against the flu. Please call your local county health department to make an appointment for your vaccination. To locate a county health department clinic in your area or for more information on flu, visit the MSDH website at www.HealthyMS.com/flu. Follow MSDH by email and social media at HealthyMS.com/connect.