Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has begun receiving reports of seasonal influenza, commonly called the flu. The exact timing of flu seasons can vary, but activity often begins to increase in October. Most years, flu activity peaks between December and February, although activity can last as late as May.

“It’s time for anyone 6 months old or older to get a flu shot,” Maine CDC Director Nirav D. Shah said in a news release from the agency. “Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent getting sick with the flu. A flu shot is especially important for older people, pregnant women, and others with conditions that put them at greater risk of severe complications from the flu.”

Flu viruses spread when infected people cough, sneeze, or talk. Flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have the flu often feel some or all of the following symptoms: fever or chills, sore throat, cough, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and fatigue.

The most effective way to keep from catching and spreading the flu is to get vaccinated every flu season. A flu shot from the previous season will not carry over its effectiveness to the current season.

The flu vaccine can also reduce the severity of the illness, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to the flu. Studies show that the flu vaccine saves children’s lives, prevents serious problems associated with chronic lung disease, diabetes and heart disease, and prevents influenza-related hospitalization among working-age people, older adults, and pregnant women.

Influenza antiviral drugs can be a second line of defense for people who get sick with the flu. Many studies have found that in addition to lessening the duration and severity of symptoms, antiviral drugs can prevent flu complications. Talk with a health care provider about what type is most appropriate for you.

Mainers can take simple steps to reduce the spread of the illness by following the “No Flu 4 You” guidelines to help stay healthy: Wash your hands, cover your cough, stay home when you’re sick and, again, get vaccinated.

For more information on influenza, visit maineflu.gov.