Officials say it's time to get flu shots

A dose of flu vaccine is seen at the Alexian Brothers PACE facility on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Annual flu vaccines are particularly important for seniors to whom the flu can be life-threatening.

September marks the beginning of fall, football and flu season.

Although influenza viruses can surface year-round, activity typically increases in October and peaks between December and February, and the time to prepare is now, public health officials say.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone 6 months old and older receive a flu vaccine before the end of October to prevent the spread of influenza viruses. Early immunization is preferred, since the vaccine takes two weeks to provide protection and it's impossible to predict the severity of the season, when it will start and how long it will last.

Despite this recommendation, only 45.6 percent of people in the United States got a flu shot last season.

Sharon Goforth, special projects supervisor at the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department, said although it's impossible to completely prevent influenza, vaccination is the best way to limit the spread of the disease, especially to those with a higher risk of developing complications from the virus, such as infants, pregnant women, older adults and people with medical conditions.