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Updated: 01/17/2013 08:00:03AM

Got the flu? You’re not alone this year

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Christmas for many people in Southwest Florida and the New Year isn’t offering much respite from an unusually active flu season.

Doctors offices, hospitals and Polk County Health Department officials all report an uptick in flu cases. Of the 18 children who have died with flu-like symptoms so far across the nation two were from Florida and one lived right here in Polk County. “It is not too late to get vaccinated against the flu, and we encourage anyone age six months and older to get a flu shot,” said State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. John Armstrong. “Influenza A is the most common flu type in Florida this season and is countered by the vaccine.” The Centers for Disease Control reported in December that the 2012-13 flu season, which typically doesn’t begin until after Christmas, had its earliest start in 10 years.

“Reports of influenza-like-illness (ILI) are nearing what have been peak levels during moderately severe seasons,” according to Dr. Joe Bresee of the CDC. “Anyone who has not already been vaccinated should do so now.”

The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine, which are available at drug stores and the Polk County Health Department for everyone six months of age and older. For information, call the department at 863-519-7916 or 863-678-4144.

In addition to the vaccine, there are a number of ways you can protect yourself from getting the flu, including:

• Wash your hands with soap and water

• Keep your hands away from your face

• Avoid contact with sick people

• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when sneezing and coughing If you get the flu, you can limit the severity of the symptoms by drinking plenty of fluids, getting rest, taking acetaminophen or ibuprofin to reduce your fever and body aches or take over-the-counter cold and cough medications to alleviate congestion and coughing.

And it may be a good idea to just let someone else have the TV remote for now.