It’s January and, of course, the influenza season has begun. While headlines and breaking news stories are not calling attention to the annual illness, it is here and spreading.

In its weekly “California Influenza Surveillance Report,” the state’s Department of Public Health announced at the end of December that the flu bug is “widely circulating in California.”

California is one of 30 states with a high incidence of influenza-like illnesses, according to the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Both outpatient visits and hospitalizations related to influenza-like illnesses are above the expected levels for this stage of the flu season. Seventeen deaths already have been identified in the state.

In Riverside County, the flu is not quite as widespread. Visits to physician offices and emergency rooms remained within normal ranges for the end of December, according to the county’s Department of Public Health.

Public health officials are urging people to get vaccinated. It’s never too late for people to get their flu shot since flu season typically lasts from October to April. The CDC urges a vaccination for everyone 6 months of age or older.

Those most at risk of getting the flu include the young and the elderly, as well as those with underlying conditions, such as HIV, suppressing their immune systems.

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