This year's flu season is proving to be particularly nasty as health officials around New Jersey report epidemic levels.

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Prevention is still the first line of defense. But with so many people already sick, is it too late to take steps?

The experts say no.

Not Too Late for a Flu Shot

Now is the perfect time to roll up that sleeve for a flu shot. The vaccine needs 3 to 7 days to generate a full immune response. There are benefits to getting the shot from the moment the needle penetrates the skin. As soon as this happens, the serum goes to work in protecting the immune system. The sooner you get it the better. If you have waited till now, health officials say get it as soon as possible.

We go through flu seasons each year but why is the 2013 season so hard to deal with? Why does it feel like it's worse than last year? Allergist Dr. Leonard Bielory says Mother Nature's mood and volative weather can be one of the main culprits.

He says, "We have had milder weather than usual. Normally this time of year, there's snow on the ground, colder temperatures and the air is cooler. This time, it's cool but the air is more dry. This is helping spread the viral particles that contribute to sickness."

A high fever. Chills. Muscle Aches. Coughs and Sneezes. These are all symptoms of this nastier-than-normal strain.

Does the Flu Shot Cause Side Effects?

Bielory adds in addition to the weather, "the high number of cases could be blamed on people refusing to get the vaccine, fearing the possible side effects. They are relatively minor. Many have thought over the years that getting a flu shot could lead to you getting the flu. That isn't true at all. What you're actually getting is a small dose of the flu that may cause an ache or two. It's no where near as bad as it would be if you avoided the shot altogether and were then exposed to the flu."

Bielory says, "The more people get the shot, the harder it is for the influenza to spread. It can live for several hours on say a door handle or even an ATM machine - any surface really. Sanitize those hands whenever possible and don't touch your face."

Health officials say some of the other preventative measures will sound familiar: cover your cough and sneeze, wash your hands and stay home if you're sick. Bielory adds if you have the symptoms of the flu, see your doctor.

If you are home sick, stay in for at least five days before venturing back out, drink plenty of liquids and get bed rest.