This may sound like nagging, but have you received your flu shot yet? Even though we're closing in on mid-January, it's still not too late if you haven't.
"Everyone seems to know that the elderly are particularly vulnerable, but so too are children," said William Rodriguez, M.D., Ph.D., a pediatrician at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). "Severe complications are most common in children under age two, and all children ages six months and older should be immunized."
Rodriguez notes that in each of the last 10 flu seasons, between 43 and 153 children died from influenza in the U.S. An average 20,000 children a year under age five are hospitalized. So far this year, 16 deaths of children under age 18 have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Forty-three states are currently reporting widespread flu outbreaks, with the District of Columbia and remaining states -- Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Montana, South Dakota and Missouri -- reporting localized outbeaks.
There's still time
People are generally immunized in the fall, but they can still get protection from the flu for what remains of the flu season -- even though immunization takes several weeks to take effect. The season usually peaks in January or February, with some cases continuing into the spring and even beyond.
"This is particularly late in the flu season for very young children, because to optimize immune response, children between the ages of 6 and 35 months need two shots, four weeks apart, during their first season of vaccination," said Rodriguez. "However, even one shot provides some protection, so even now there is time to get some benefit."
As of the end of November 2012, 112 million Americans were immunized for this flu season, leaving the majority unprotected as of that time, according to CDC.
Although some locations have stopped offering the flu vaccine, which each year is approved by FDA, supplies remain available. Consumers can find out where to get a flu shot by calling doctor's offices, clinics, pharmacies and supermarkets.