Earlier this fall, health experts were bracing for a more severe than normal flu season based on infection rates reported in Australia months ago.

In November, influenza-like activity began to spread across New Jersey, with the northern half of the state reporting moderate levels of activity four weeks ago.

But as we approach the new year, flu activity has remained in the moderate range in all regions of the Garden State and some people are wondering if this is a signal that flu season might not be so bad after all.

Dr. Ed Lifshitz, medical director of the communicable disease service for the state Health Department, said it’s basically impossible to make accurate prediction about the flu “but in this we do feel confident saying we have not yet reached the peak of the flu season. It will get worse before it gets better.”

Typically flu season peaks in New Jersey in January or February.

Is it too late to get the flu shot?

"The only time it’s too late to get the flu shot is after you’ve already gotten the flu," Lifshitz said. "So yes, we would strongly recommend that people still go ahead and vaccinate.”

He said there is an ample supply of flu vaccine available this year but “it is too soon yet to know exactly how effective it will be."

The flu shot is never 100% effective, but “getting a flu vaccine will be the best thing people can do to protect themselves from getting the flu.”

Lifshitz explained that even if you do get a flu shot, that doesn’t mean you are guaranteed to not get sick. Getting the shot, however, may mean that you will not get as severely sick even if you still contract the virus.

The flu shot will only offer protection against influenza, not other illnesses like the rhinovirus.

Lifshitz said if you do become ill this winter you want to protect others by covering your nose and mouth when you sneeze and cough, stay home and wash your hands frequently.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports across the nation there have been at least 2.6 million flu illnesses, 23,000 hospitalizations and 1,300 deaths from flu so far.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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