It is more important than ever to get your flu shot this year and to get it early.

Hospitals are stressed with the influx of COVID-19 patients and additional admissions because of the seasonal flu could prove overwhelming.

Health care experts say it is not too early to get your flu shot.

Here are the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control for flu shots:

— CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses.

— While there are many different flu viruses, a flu vaccine protects against the viruses that research suggests will be most common.

— Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations.

— Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every year before flu activity begins in their community. Health experts also recommend getting vaccinated early this year.

— Vaccination of high-risk persons is especially important to decrease their risk of severe flu illness.

— People at high risk of serious flu complications include young children; pregnant women; people with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease; and people 65 years and older.

— Vaccination also is important for health care workers and other people who live with or care for high-risk people to keep from spreading flu to them.

— Children younger than 6 months are at high risk of serious flu illness, but are too young to be vaccinated. People who care for infants should be vaccinated instead.

Both for those who have and those who have not gotten the flu vaccine this season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers these recommendations to reduce your chances of getting sick and to manage your sickness if you do:

— Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

— While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.

— If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)

— Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

— Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

— Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.

— Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs such as the flu.

It should also be remembered that the hospital emergency room is not the first line of defense for battling the flu.

A visit to a primary health care physician or after-hours clinic may be necessary if symptoms warrant but the emergency room should be reserved for emergencies.

Fortunately, many of the same practices we have had to get used to in the past few months to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 will also help prevent the spread of the flu — that is if we simply follow the guidelines.

As we have said repeatedly, we encourage everyone in our community to vigorously follow those guidelines — avoid crowds, socially distance, practice good hygiene, wear protective masks — and now we add to that list: Get your flu vaccine.

An editorial from the Valdosta Daily Times, Georgia.