Flu activity has gotten so serious the head of the New Jersey Health Department is making a direct appeal to New Jerseyans to get vaccinated if they haven’t already done so.

Dr. Shereef Elnahal, the commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health, said a couple of weeks ago influenza activity in North, Central and South Jersey was moderate, but “we’re at high levels of flu activity right now.

"It is coming a little bit earlier than what we’ve seen in previous years," Elnahal

He said with so many cases of influenza being reported at medical centers, nursing homes and schools, “what we’re trying to do is make sure that we’re doubling down on vaccination, telling as many folks as possible to become vaccinated.”

He said all Jersey residents should get flu shots, especially those working in health care settings. We haven't had any vaccine shortages, though the health department is monitoring the supply.

The commissioner said it’s too soon to tell whether the current vaccine is a good match for the strains of flu that are circulating.

“What we’re trying to do is make sure we stay in close touch with the CDC, who will get us information on the flu vaccine’s effectiveness in the next several weeks," Elnahal said.

He said last year’s flu season was quite severe, in part because the vaccine was not as effective as everyone had hoped, and “we hope this year’s vaccine is more effective.”

“As long as flu is circulating in the community, and it is right now, it’s not too late to get the flu shot, so really people should get the flu shot as soon as they can," Elnahal said.

He also said no one is sure whether the early start to flu season this year will mean it will wind down earlier than it usually does, in April.

He stressed hand0washing is extremely important at this time of year because if you shake hands with someone “who has the virus, washing your hands before you touch your own face, your nose etcetera, can prevent you from getting the flu.”

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