As extremely cold conditions continue to blanket the Garden State, a growing number of New Jersey residents are getting sick.

Influenza activity is now classified as high in Central Jersey and much of North Jersey.

“We anticipate that we’ll have this increased activity for at least quite some time,” said Tan.

She noted influenza is unpredictable but “we do expect to see higher levels of flu activity in the month of January and in February because that’s when flu activity typically peaks in New Jersey.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not determined the effectiveness of this year’s flu shot.

“But we definitely have heard some reports from Australia and their past flu season, they’ve reported lower vaccine effectiveness," Tan said.

She also pointed out those reports were based on one flu strain, the H3N2 virus, and other strains are now circulating in New Jersey and across the rest of the nation, so it’s too soon to know for sure how effective the vaccine really is.

Tan adds that while the current vaccine and the circulating flu strains may not be a perfect match, there are still a lot of protective benefits.

“The antibodies you make in response to vaccine with one type of flu virus can oftentimes provide protection against different but related flu viruses,” she said.

She noted the Health Department monitors influenza-like illnesses, not confirmed cases of the flu.

“We work with various different entities throughout the state, like at emergency departments, long term care facilities, at schools.”

So do you have the flu, or something else?

Dr. Tan said many illnesses can cause similar symptoms, including headache, fever and chills, so unless you get tested, you won’t know for sure.

“This is the time of year where there’s an increase in viral illnesses generally speaking, so it’s really important to remind people to wash your hands, and make sure you cover your cough.”

She also stressed the importance of staying home instead of going into work if you’re sick, for your own protection and the protection of others.

Tan noted there have not been any reports of supply issues from vaccine manufacturers.

“There’s plenty of vaccine, so please go get your flu shot.”

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