With the world’s health focus on China, and American officials recommending suspending travel there, and images of Chinese ghost towns and the stats of the affected and dead from the coronavirus epidemic, local health officials are reminding you that there’s a greater public health epidemic than one half a world away: the flu.

Getting an annual flu vaccine is the safest and best way to protect yourself and your family. A flu vaccine is recommended for everyone over six months old and safe for everyone, including pregnant women. According to the Florida Department of Health in Osceola County, it takes about two weeks after getting the for the flu antibodies to build up in you to develop protection.

Your local health department offers free and low-cost flu vaccinations for children and adults. Call 407-343-2000 to schedule an appointment.

The flu vaccine is offered elsewhere: doctor’s offices, clinics, retail stores, pharmacies, other public health centers and by many employers and schools. The bottom line is: take advantage of this this winter.

Aside from vaccination, good hygiene can keep the flu at bay. Make frequently washing your hands a habit to clean, and spray commonly used surfaces in your home, school or office with disinfectant. Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your elbow, and avoiding touching your face afterward.

For more information regarding influenza, visit the Florida Healith influenza homepage at http://www.floridahealth.gov/floridaflu