Originally published Tuesday, September 10, 2019 at 08:49p.m.

The flu season will begin at some point during the next few months, that’s a given. But exactly when and where every flu season will begin is harder to predict. Australia, a nation whose flu situation is often used to predict what the next flu season will be like in the United States, experienced its flu season two months earlier than expected.

The 2018-2019 flu season while milder than the previous season, was the longest flu season in a decade, at 21 weeks, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Approximately 8% of the U.S. population gets sick from the flu each year, with a range between 3-11% depending on the severity of the viruses circulating that season. With flu season getting longer, it’s important to get your flu shots early. If you think it’s possible to get the flu shot too early and limit the coverage of the vaccine, the CDC says it’s safe to get the vaccination whenever the vaccine becomes available.

The flu shot’s overall effectiveness varies from year to year, according to the CDC. The protection you’ll get from the shot depends on your age and health, as well as the similarity or “match” between the virus(es) in the vaccine and those that are circulating during the season. Recent effectiveness studies show that flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness by between 40 percent and 60 percent among the overall population during seasons when most circulating flu viruses are well-matched to the shot.

The CDC recommends everyone six months and older be immunized against the flu to prevent the spread of the virus. Certain groups are at greater first for complications: people with diabetes, pregnant women, adults over 65, children under five, those with asthma and other chronic lung diseases, those with kidney and liver disorders, heart disease patients, and those with compromised immune systems.

Whether you get your shots now, before the end of October, or simply ASAP, getting vaccinated for the coming flu season will protect you and your loved ones against the strains that will circulate during the 2019-2020 flu season.

The vaccine is available now at pharmacies nationwide. Yavapai County Community Health Services should receive the vaccine in mid-September and is planning flu clinics in rural areas of the county beginning in October. A list of those clinics will be forthcoming.

For more information about this event or any of the Yavapai County Community Health Services, please contact Terri Farneti at 928-442-5596 or email Terri.Farneti@yavapai.us