Dr. Ron Chapman, state health officer and director of the California Department of Public Health, urged Californians who want protection from the flu to get immunized in order to prevent sickness, hospitalization and health complications.

“Thousands of serious illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths can be prevented if Californians receive a flu vaccine as soon as possible,” Chapman said. “We can’t predict exactly when flu will arrive, but getting vaccinated now will help you and your family stay healthy when that time comes.”

To that effort, Vintage House senior center will be hosting a flu shot clinic on Saturday, Oct. 26, from 9 a.m. to noon. There is a suggested donation of $20, and shots will be available for those 6 months and up. Vintage House is located at 264 First St. E, and can be reached at 996-0311.

Health officials recommend the flu vaccine for everyone, every year.

“Even if you were vaccinated against the flu last year, you will need a new vaccine this year,” said Dr. Chapman. “Check with your health care provider if you have questions about your vaccine options.”

CDC estimates that every year, more than 200,000 people in the United States are hospitalized and flu-associated deaths range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people. Influenza, also called the flu, is a respiratory infection caused by a virus. Flu can be especially dangerous for young children, seniors, pregnant women and people with chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes or asthma.

In addition to getting vaccinated against flu, Chapman encouraged Californians to stop the spread of influenza and other respiratory illnesses by taking basic steps:

• Stay home when you are sick to avoid spreading illness to co-workers and friends.

• Cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue and properly dispose of used tissues.

• Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to get rid of most germs and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

• Stay healthy by eating a balanced diet, drinking plenty of water and getting adequate rest and exercise.

Chapman also reminded parents and caregivers to use acetaminophen or ibuprofen instead of aspirin when treating fever and aches in children and teenagers. Aspirin has been linked to Reye’s syndrome, a rare childhood disease which can lead to coma, brain damage and even death.??

For information about low- and no-cost flu vaccines, consumers can visit flushot.healthmap.org.