Flu season has officially arrived in Tennessee, with cases of seasonal influenza now categorized as widespread in our state. But it’s not too late to vaccinate! The Department of Health urges all Tennesseans who have not yet received a flu vaccine to get one now to help protect vulnerable people around them, their families and themselves from the flu virus. This is the earliest start to an ordinary flu season in Tennessee since 2003, with seasonal flu now spreading in communities across our state. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this week that the vaccine is a good match for the flu strains currently circulating in the U.S. CDC officials caution that the most common strain of influenza now circulating tends to cause more severe cases of illness, particularly among the elderly. Seasonal flu activity is now highest in the southeastern and south central U.S., including Tennessee. CDC and the Tennessee Department of Health recommend annual flu vaccination for everyone over the age of six months. Flu vaccine for people of all ages is widely available throughout Tennessee from primary health care providers, walk-in clinics, pharmacies and county health departments. Children covered by TennCare or without insurance that covers flu vaccine can get it for just a small administration fee at county health department clinics through the Vaccines for Children program. Children will not be turned away if parents cannot afford the administration fee. The flu vaccine is especially important for people at high risk for serious illness or death from influenza such as the elderly, pregnant women and young children, as well as healthcare workers and family and friends of anyone at high risk. Expectant mothers should be vaccinated during pregnancy to protect themselves and pass protection on to their unborn babies. People who are sick should stay home to recover if at all possible to prevent spreading illness to coworkers and others. If someone at high risk of serious illness gets sick with the flu, it is important to contact their healthcare provider to see if antiviral medication or other treatment is recommended to prevent complications.