VILSECK, Germany -- Flu season time is right around the corner and medical experts say the best protection against the influenza virus is to get vaccinated.

The influenza virus is constantly changing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommend annual influenza vaccination for all persons, aged six months and older.

According to the CDC flu activity begins to increase in October, peaking between December and February and diminishing by May.

Flu vaccinations are an annual requirement for service members and the Army medical community offers the vaccine to service members, as well as their family members, retirees and civilians here in the European theater.

The flu vaccine is designed to protect against the main flu viruses that research suggests will cause the most illness during the upcoming flu season and provides important protection from influenza illness and its potential complications.

Medical experts recommend you should get vaccinated as soon as the vaccine becomes available, since it takes about two weeks for the antibodies to develop in your body to fully protect against the flu. It's important to get a flu vaccine every season, even if you got a vaccine last year.

It's especially important for high-risk patients to get vaccinated. The high-risk category includes those who are age 65 or older, pregnant women and children younger than five, but especially younger than two.

Additionally, people with asthma, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, HIV or AIDS, or those who have had a stroke are also considered high-risk and should get a flu vaccination as soon as possible.

Symptoms of influenza include fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, chills, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches. Stomach symptoms such as nausea and vomiting also can occur but are more common in children than adults.

Even healthy people need a flu vaccine. Influenza is a contagious disease which affects the lungs and can lead to serious illness, including pneumonia. Healthy people can get sick enough to miss work or school for a significant amount of days, or even be hospitalized.

Is the flu vaccine safe? Yes.

The flu vaccine is safe. The flu vaccine has a very good safety record and have been given to hundreds of millions of people. In addition, the flu vaccine cannot cause flu illness. It can, however, cause mild side effects that may be mistaken for the flu. For example, people vaccinated with the flu shot may feel achy and have a sore arm where the shot was given.

All U.S. Army Medical Department Activity Bavaria clinics will announce flu events within its respective community and flu vaccine availability. Be on the lookout!

MEDDAC Bavaria clinics advocate following CDC recommendations to:
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick, when you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from also getting sick.

• If possible, stay home from work, school and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching the flu.

• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.

• Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs in general.

For information on influenza and the vaccination, visit the CDC's website: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/.