The excitement of returning to school, going to local football games, and other fall activities will soon be followed by flu season, and health officials are encouraging people to schedule their flu vaccines now to protect themselves, their children, elderly relatives, and their communities.

“The flu can be dangerous for many people, including pregnant women, young children, people age 65 and older, and others whose immune systems aren’t working well,” said Jeanne Ayers, State Health Officer and Division of Public Health Administrator. “Getting your flu vaccine protects you and so many others in your community, and helps prevent missed school or work.”

Nationally, some 17 million workdays are missed due to flu. During last year’s Wisconsin flu season, 3,483 people were hospitalized and 604 were admitted to the intensive care unit due to flu-related complications. In the previous flu season, 7,526 people were hospitalized with the flu, the highest year on record.

Getting the flu vaccine helps reduce your chances of getting sick from the flu and shortens the amount of time someone is sick. The flu vaccine can also reduce the symptoms if you do get the flu. To schedule your flu vaccine, contact your provider, or use this vaccine finder(link is external) to locate a clinic or pharmacy providing them. The Vaccines for Children Program provides flu and other vaccines to eligible children at low or no cost.

Other ways to help avoid the flu include washing your hands, coughing or sneezing into a sleeve or tissue, and staying home if you do have the flu so you don’t spread germs to others.

Watch for updates about this year’s flu season from “The Flu Guy,” DHS epidemiologist Tom Haupt, on DHS’s Twitter(link is external), Facebook(link is external), and Instagram(link is external) pages. You can also get weekly updates with the Weekly Respiratory Virus Surveillance Report starting in October.