New Jersey Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal received his flu shot at Henry J. Austin Health Center and encouraged residents to get vaccinated.“Last year was one of the most severe flu seasons in recent decades,’’ said Dr. Elnahal. “Flu vaccination is the single most important step we can take to protect ourselves and our families against infection.”As part of the #FightTheFluNJ Campaign, Department of Health leadership staff will be visiting community health centers, hospitals, local health departments and universities across the state to receive influenza vaccinations and talk about the importance of prevention.On Nov. 13, Principal Deputy Commissioner Jackie Cornell, an Rutgers University alumna, will get vaccinated at a clinic on campus. The Department is continuing its #FightTheFluNJ to encourage residents to get vaccinated and take steps to protect themselves, which included posters, social media and public events.As part of the overall campaign, the Department currently has two new initiatives to help promote flu prevention among our partners, the New Jersey Influenza Honor Roll and the New Jersey College & University Flu Challenge. The Honor Roll recognizes institutions who encourage and promote flu prevention within their communities across the state. There are four eligible categories to participate: businesses, community-based organizations, institutions of education, and new this year - healthcare facilities. Additional information about the initiative and the application form are available at: https://nj.gov/health/cd/topics/flu.shtml/#5. At this site, you can also view campaign ideas from some of the honorees of the 2017-18 New Jersey Influenza Honor Roll.The Flu Challenge is a separate initiative designed to engage students in a friendly competition to improve flu vaccination coverage on their campuses. The winner of last year’s challenge was Seton Hall University. This year, there are eleven participating colleges. The winner will be announced in March 2019.Seasonal flu activity often begins as early as October and November and can continue to occur as late as May. Flu activity most commonly peaks in the United States between December and February.During the 2017-18 flu season, New Jersey saw high levels of flu activity. New Jersey saw a greater percentage of flu-associated visits last season than during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.Additionally, New Jersey had five pediatric flu deaths.The New Jersey Department of Health works closely with the healthcare and public health community to conduct surveillance for seasonal and novel influenza and collects information on influenza-like illness weekly from hospital emergency departments and long-term care facilities, and also collects absenteeism information from schools. Weekly reports are available at https://www.nj.gov/health/cd/statistics/flu-stats/.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older. Certain people are at greater risk for serious complications from the flu. Those at high risk include:Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years oldPeople 65 years of age and olderPregnant women and women up to 2 weeks after end of pregnancyAmerican Indians and Alaskan NativesPeople who have medical conditions such as asthma, heart disease, and diabetesFlu vaccination should also be a priority for those persons who live with or care for individuals at higher risk for influenza-related complications. This includes healthcare personnel and household contacts of children less than six months of age, since these children are too young to receive the flu vaccine.Commissioner Elnahal will also visit healthcare facilities with mandatory flu vaccination policies. He will visit Jefferson Health in Cherry Hill, which has 98 percent of healthcare staff vaccinated against the flu.“The Department continues to recommend that individuals also take necessary precautions like washing their hands frequently, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home when sick,” said Elnahal. “If you do get sick, ask your healthcare provider if antiviral medications are right for you. These medications can shorten the length of time you are sick.”The symptoms of flu include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headaches and fatigue.For more information about influenza, including where to find the vaccine, visit the Department’s flu website at http://nj.gov/health/cd/topics/flu.shtml.