INDIANAPOLIS — The holiday season is called the “most wonderful time of year,” but it’s also a time when people are often the sickliest.

This week, health professionals are warning about one of the biggest culprits: the flu.  

The few days spanning from December 5 to December 9 make up National Influenza Vaccination Week. Because this year has already seen a particularly bad start to flu season, health officials everywhere, including at Hancock Health, are hoping to convince you to get your flu vaccine. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 8.7 million illnesses, 78,000 hospitalizations and 4,500 deaths from flu have been documented so far this season. The typical flu season can run from September to May, which means if trends continue, numbers are expected to exponentially jump.  

Here in Indiana, 11 Hoosiers have died from the flu this year. The state is also reporting a “very high” level of activity, causing hospitals to implement restrictions to their visitation policies to prevent the spread. Health professionals say it’s an ominous start to the season but also emphasize that its not too late to do something about it and get a flu shot.  

“It’s certainly not too late. In fact, I would encourage people to get it now, because flu numbers are up, about the highest we’ve seen in 10 years,” Jason Wells with Hancock Health said.  

Wells added that the flu vaccine is the biggest tool the healthcare system has to combat the spread of influenza. And while the shot may not guarantee a 100% certain immunity from influenza, it will help recipients from experience worse symptoms and cut down on spread. 

“The elderly, the young population, those with comorbidities, heart disease, respiratory disease, they are vulnerable. So let’s do it we can to take care of ourselves selves to make sure we don’t spread it onto them,” Wells said.  

The CDC says the number of flu hospital admissions reported in the HHS Protect system during the past week almost doubled compared to the week before. But the center adds that, “The majority of influenza viruses tested are in the same genetic subclade as and antigenically similar to the influenza viruses included in this season’s influenza vaccine.” 

Hancock Health does offer flu shots across their network, but as Wells put it, they don’t care where you get your shot, as long as you get one. 

“We have plenty of time to get a flu vaccine. Plenty of time for that immunity to build up before we get into Christmas. January and February aren’t any warmer. So, let’s get it in, let’s get that immunity now, so we’re even better prepared once we get into the culture months,” he said.