Flu season is around the corner, and health officials say now is the time to protect yourself.
Typically, the body isn't fully protected from the virus until several weeks after the shot because it takes time to produce antibodies, said Nick Davidson, spokesman for Region 8 of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.
That means flu shots should be given now, before the flu season is fully under way. Davidson said the season usually begins in November and lasts through April. It usually peaks in January or February.
"It will shift as much as a month or so in each direction from year to year, but that's pretty typical," Davidson said.
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Although it's difficult to predict the outcome of an upcoming season, Davidson said everything seems normal at this point.
"We don't have any indication that this is going to be any more unusual than a normal, average flu season," Davidson said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that about 36,000 people die every year from the flu or flu-related illnesses.
This year's vaccine protects against three strains of the flu virus, including H1N1, Davidson said. The vaccine is recommended for anyone older than 6 months.
A flu shot is the best defense against the virus' spread, Davidson said, but other precautions help , too -- wash your hands, cough into your sleeve and stay home when you're sick.
Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.