It’s the holiday season and while spirits are high, so is flu, cold and COVID activity. So far, Connecticut has seen about 12,000 flu cases, 153 hospitalizations and one reported death.

The good news is an annual flu shot could keep you healthy, or at least protect you from the worst of it.

“Receiving an annual flu shot is extremely important in helping to reduce the severity of illness,” says Shane Joy, PA, a primary care provider with Hartford HealthCare Medical Group.

> Schedule my flu vaccine at Hartford HealthCare Medical Group

Value of vaccination

Those vaccinated against the flu have shorter disease course, and fewer symptoms, hospitalizations and, ultimately, deaths.

“Just like the COVID vaccine, the flu shot does not prevent us from the flu; it protects us from severe symptoms and complications,” Joy explains.

In addition, flu viruses change every year.

“That’s why it’s so important to update your vaccinations annually to provide the most up-to-date protection,” Joy advises.

Better late than never

While it’s ideal to get your flu shot before the season starts, it’s almost never too late. As long as the flu is circulating, a flu shot will provide protection.

“Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting your flu shot before October, as long as influenza is around, so are the vaccines,” Joy says. “As a healthcare provider, it’s better knowing my patients were vaccinated late than not at all.”

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Other tips for avoiding sickness

When gathering with friends and family this holiday season, Joy suggests the following ways to prevent and reduce the spread of illness:

  • Wash your hands. Proper hand washing is the number one way to reduce the spread of disease.
  • Practice social distancing when possible.
  • If you feel unwell, stay home. Although it’s hard missing time with your loved ones, they will be thankful to know you kept them safe by staying home.
  • If you experience any symptoms, get tested. Hartford HealthCare Medical Group offers testing at all primary care offices.

Flu symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Cough
  • Congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue