With temperatures in the '70s and '80s, many New Jersey residents are still walking around in shorts and T-shirts — the flu is already here. And health officials are urging all Garden State residents to make plans to get flu shots.

State epidemiologist Dr. Tina Tan said no one is really sure what flu season will look like this year, and it’s difficult to predict when influenza activity will begin to accelerate, but “we tend to see flu activity begin to pick up in the fall through March and April so certainly this is a great time to be getting the flu shot now.”

She said if you have the chance to get a flu shot right away, there is no reason to wait until it gets cold to do so.

“We are currently seeing flu activity right now in the state, so we recommend that you get your vaccine — get vaccinated by the end of October," Tan said.

Tan pointed out influenza activity typically picks up in October, November and December, peaking in late January or February.

“Because we’re starting to see flu activity and because it takes about two weeks for the flu vaccine to become effective, try to get that flu vaccine earlier," Tan said.

She pointed out the vaccinations being offered now are the same ones you will be getting in November or December, but there are some variations.

“Individuals who are older might benefit from the high-dose vaccine," she said. "There’s also the nasal spray vaccine — kids might prefer that as well — but we suggest you check with your health care provider.”

She stressed getting the flu vaccine every single year is recommended for everyone 6 months and older, "and that’s the best step to try and protect yourself against flu.”

She said a flu shot will usually last the season, but there might be a slight decline in protection by late winter or early spring of next year for those with weakened immune systems.

Tan said, in addition to getting a flu shot, you need to be frequently washing your hands, staying home when you’re sick, and covering your cough and your sneezes — so you can prevent the spread of illness to others.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention about 165 million doses of flu vaccine are expected to be produced and distributed across the nation this year, and no vaccine shortages are expected.

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

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