Flu season is in full swing. The best ways to protect yourself and others include washing your hands, staying home if you’re not feeling good, and – even now – getting a flu shot if you haven’t yet.

“It is really increasing in the community,” said Dr. Michael O’Dell, chair of the Family Medicine Department at Truman Medical Centers and at UMKC.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reports the flu being widespread in the state for the week ending Dec. 23. O’Dell said Missouri is in the middle of the pack among states hit by the flu.

“We’re definitely in the thick of the flu season right now,” he said.

One key is to limit your own exposure to the virus and avoid spreading it to others. That takes a degree of vigilance. A person can be exposed and start passing the bug onto other before symptoms set in.

“When you first start feeling crummy is when you’re most infective,” O’Dell said. Stay home from work when you’re sick.

Also, flu shots are still available. Authorities point out that getting a shot is not only the best way to prevent the flu or lessen its effect for yourself, but also every person who doesn’t get the flu is one less person to pass it along.

“The best way to protect the community is to have the community immunized,” O’Dell said.

And remember these: Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently. Cough into the crook of your elbow (or a tissue) to muffle the spread of germs. Even wearing a mask is something to consider.

“It’s a good way to keep exposure down,” O’Dell said.