ALBANY — The New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) is reminding older adults and caregivers about the importance of getting their flu vaccination as soon as possible. Flu season is already underway — and can last as late as May. The flu shot is an essential preventive care service that should not be delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Staying healthy is more critical than ever, particularly for older adults, who are at greater risk for the flu and COVID-19,” said NYSOFA Acting Director Greg Olsen. “Our immune systems are more easily compromised as we age, and older adults, especially those with chronic health conditions, have an increased risk of becoming seriously ill. In addition to following all safety and social distancing guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID, getting a flu shot is vital to protect the health and wellbeing of older adults and caregivers.”

Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea. People infected with the flu may also have respiratory symptoms without a fever. The flu can cause mild to severe illness. Older adults, people with certain chronic medical conditions, young children, and pregnant women are among those who are at highest risk of serious flu complications, possibly requiring hospitalization and sometimes resulting in death.

Getting a flu shot is particularly important for those at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, which can mimic flu symptoms. While the flu vaccine does not specifically protect against COVID-19, it is highly recommended to maintain overall health and protect against other respiratory illnesses. Understanding the risks and impact of the COVID-19 virus is critical for all New Yorkers to protect themselves and their loved ones.

With COVID cases continuing to increase across the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following: Practice good health and safety habits, including wearing a mask in public, practicing social distancing by keeping at least six (6) feet of distance between yourself and others, even when outdoors; avoiding close contact such as shaking hands or hugging; washing hands often or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol when soap and water are not available; and avoiding unnecessary contact with surfaces that are often touched, such as doorknobs and handrails.

Get your annual flu shot. Everyone six months of age and older, particularly those at greater risk, should get an annual flu vaccine. High-dose flu shots are also available for adults age 65 and older.

Get pneumococcal vaccines. People 65 years and older should also be up to date with the pneumococcal vaccination to protect against other respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia, meningitis, and bloodstream infections.

Seek medical advice quickly if you develop COVID or flu symptoms. People with COVID-19 have reported a wide range of symptoms from mild to severe illness, many which mimic flu symptoms.

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