As flu season begins, San Mateo County Health officials are urging everyone 6 months and older to get a flu vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control urges people to get their flu vaccine by the end of October, as the disease usually starts circulating in November or December. Every season, flu sickens millions in the United States, hospitalizes hundreds of thousands, and kills tens of thousands, according to the CDC.

The vaccine takes two weeks to become fully effective and are important for pregnant women, children younger than 5, adults 65 and older, and those with chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease, asthma and diabetes, according to health officials.

Residents are encouraged to address the illness early and consider calling a doctor or using a local urgent care facility as needed if they start to experience symptoms. Symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue.

San Mateo County Health is offering free flu vaccine clinics at various times and locations around the county. Get more information at www.smchealth.org/flu or go to vaccinefinder.org to find a location near you. San Mateo County Health operates a hotline at (650) 573-3927 with recorded information, in English and Spanish, about flu vaccines and clinic hours and locations. Speakers of Tagalog, Mandarin and Cantonese may call (800) 675-8437 to be connected to a translator and receive vaccine and clinic information. San Mateo County residents who are homebound may call (800) 675-8437 to arrange a flu vaccine.

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