The flu season is about to arrive. The season generally starts in mid-fall and runs until early April. But the last few years, the Indiana State Department of Health has reported an early arrival of the annual malady.

The state does not track the number of cases of influenza in Indiana, but relies on a network of physicians around the state to send in specimens of suspected cases.

In an average year, influenza infects up to 20 percent of the U.S. population.

So, what can one do to stay flu-free? Doctors are urging people to receive early flu shots. The shot is recommended for adults older than 50, children between 6 months and 2 years, people with chronic medical conditions and people who work in health care.

Flu shots aren't for everyone. Those with weak immune systems should avoid the shots. It's best to confer with your family physician who knows your medical history before getting a shot.

The Jefferson County Health Department again is offering seasonal flu and pneumonia vaccinations to residents 6 months and older.

The vaccines will be available during office hours Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Appointments are not necessary.

Those 6 months to 18 years old can receive free flu shots if they do not have health insurance.

The health department also can bill Medicare Part B and Medicaid for adult flu and pneumonia vaccines. Patrons must bring an insurance card to verify coverage.

The health department is unable to bill Medicare HMO or private insurance companies.

Call the health department at 273-1942 for any questions or concerns.

It's best not to wait too long before getting a shot. The flu is not to be taken lightly. Check with your physician and act accordingly.