Health experts remind everyone that a flu shot is a good idea as colder weather draws nearer.

“It’s cold season. It’s flu season. … Vaccine is your number one prevention,” Ellen Dorshow-Gordon, a Jackson County Health Department epidemiologist, said this week.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the flu has been slow to take off this season. Last year it started in much the same way and peaked in mid-March.

“Flu is an interesting bug because we can see it as early as September, or we can see it now and it peaks later,” Dorshow-Gordon said.

Bottom line: It’s still a good idea to get a flu shot, and remember that it takes two weeks to fully kick in as the body builds up antibodies. Pneumonia shots also are good, Dorshow-Gordon said.

She also pointed out other simple steps people can take to avoid getting sick and avoid spreading germs to others. One is to wash your hands frequently and well. Use warm water and soap, and wash those hands for the length of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday.” (Don’t speed through it, she says.)

Also, cough into the crook of your sleeve. Throw away used tissues right away.

“And stay home if you’re sick,” Dorshow-Gordon added.

Influenza has a wide range of symptoms: chills, fever – though not everyone gets that – sore throat, runny nose, stuffy nose, cough, headache and fatigue. Some people, generally children, will have vomiting or diarrhea. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services points out that most people recover with bed rest and do not need medical care or antivirals.

People can come down with the flu in one to four days after exposure, though it’s usually about two days. Health authorities also say you can spread the disease even before you notice symptoms.

“Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season, especially those at high risk,” the CDC says on its website.

Those at high risk include those 5 and younger, those 65 and older, pregnant women, residents of nursing homes and other long-term-care facilities, and those with health conditions such as asthma; chronic lung disease; heart disease; cancer; liver, blood or kidney disorders; endocrine system disorders such as diabetes; metabolic disorders; and the extremely obese.