FLORIDA — It’s time to make sure people with the flu are taking steps to protect their health, and they’re starting with the most basic measures: taking their medication and getting tested.
It’s the same basic message coming from state and local health officials, who are calling for a broader, more coordinated response to the pandemic.
In the past, people in Florida have gone about their daily routines without ever knowing they were ill.
They didn’t take precautions, for example, to limit the number of people they saw and the times they spent in their homes.
But they were often too sick to take their medicine, or they were too afraid to be seen by a doctor.
Now, the flu is hitting the state’s oldest and most populated counties, with an estimated 2.7 million people.
And the number is climbing fast, with more than 300,000 people sick or hospitalized.
“We need to start taking the flu seriously,” said Dr. Lisa Smith, the director of the state health department’s flu program.
“We’ve been waiting for this day for a while.”
That means getting tested for the flu, as well as the flu vaccine, the best way to avoid a dangerous outbreak.
The Florida Department of Health said that the number for the most recent flu season was 5.6 million, the highest on record.
More than 4 million people were diagnosed with flu in that period, making it the highest-ever season for the state.
More than 60 percent of Florida’s population of about 1.2 million is under 65, and that’s when the flu surge began.
In Florida, more than 2,200 people have died from the flu so far this season, including 1,973 who died from a virus that is linked to the coronavirus.
Nearly 1,400 have died of other causes, including pneumonia, dehydration and heart disease.
More people are becoming ill, too, even as they’re doing their jobs, such as getting their kids ready for school or taking their kids to the dentist.
In an effort to prevent more deaths and illnesses, Florida health officials said Tuesday that they will allow children under 6 to attend their first flu shot.
That’s the first time children can get vaccinated, but it’s not mandatory.
A spokeswoman for the Florida Department in charge of health said it’s up to parents to decide when to vaccinate their children, and it’s also up to them to make their own health decisions about whether to get vaccinated.
She said Florida will not require vaccination in public.
More: Health officials are urging people who need flu shots to get them before school starts in August, which is when many families would like to get their children vaccinated.
Officials say it’s possible the flu shot could have been given to children in earlier seasons, but parents have been asked to be extra vigilant about when they get their shots.
For the most part, Florida’s schools are operating normally, said Dr, Julie Williams, a doctor and public health expert.
“The schools are mostly doing their normal routine,” she said.
“The most important thing we can do is provide information on how to get a flu shot.”
The CDC says that the flu season began Sept. 16 and ends Sept. 30, so the last time we saw a spike in the flu was Oct. 10.
That suggests the flu has a chance of re-emerging again.
But for now, there are no known flu cases in Florida and there is no vaccine to be had, either.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it will monitor the situation closely.
The CDC also has updated its Flu Advisory Alert system, which alerts people to a pandemic and helps them prepare for it.
The new system will alert people to the threat of influenza, as will an updated version of its vaccine.