Flu activity is ramping up quicker this season than last, according to the latest update from the state Department of Health.

For the first time this flu season, activity of the illness is considered "high" in most segments of New Jersey. This time last year, according to state data, influenza activity was "moderate" throughout the state.

The state's numbers are based on samples from schools, nursing homes, hospitals and other areas, and only provide a snapshot of influenza's reach at any given time.

An uptick in cases has been registered at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, where temporary visitor restrictions are now in place. Those under 14 years of age may not visit certain areas of the hospital.

"Through the years we've found that increasing our staff during this time of season is important," said Dr. Manish Trivedi, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases. "We do kind of raise all hands on deck for this time of season because of how many patient contacts we have in the hospital."

Vaccination against the flu, although not a guarantee, is the first and most important step in prevention, Trivedi said. While it's generally recommended the vaccine be received by the end of October, health officials say getting vaccinated can still be beneficial through the end of the year and beyond.

“Getting vaccinated isn’t just about keeping you healthy; it’s also about helping to protect others around you who may be vulnerable to becoming very sick, such as infants, older adults, and pregnant women," said DOH Acting Commissioner Judith Persichilli.

The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for all individuals aged six months and older.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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