CRESTVIEW — In Florida and throughout the U.S., flu activity is on the rise. Okaloosa is currently seeing widespread flu activity.

"On Friday, Jan. 12, the [Centers] for Disease Control stated that flu has reached epidemic levels and the nation has experienced 20 pediatric deaths," Dr. Karen Chapman, Department of Health-Okaloosa director, said. "We have ordered additional flu vaccine for children for the Crestview and Fort Walton Beach clinics."

The health department urges getting the flu vaccine now if you have not already. If any local pediatricians have children 18 or under that need an influenza vaccine, they can also send them to DOH-Okaloosa. There are still weeks of flu activity to come. It is not too late to get your flu vaccine.

"The flu vaccine is safe, and recommended for everyone six months and older, including pregnant women," a health department media release states.

Flu vaccines can vary in effectiveness from season to season, but they continue to be the best way to prevent influenza infection and serious influenza complications.

People who become ill with flu-like symptoms should contact their health care provider as soon as possible so doctors can prescribe antiviral treatment if appropriate.

Treatment is most effective when started within 48 hours, so calling immediately after becoming ill is important, especially for those at higher risk for complications: that includes children younger than 5, adults over the age of 65, pregnant women, and those with underlying medical conditions.

People with the flu should stay home from work and keep children home from school or daycare when sick to help prevent spreading the flu to others. Practice good hygiene by properly and frequently washing hands; regularly clean and disinfect commonly used surfaces in the home, school or office; and cough or sneeze into your elbow and avoid touching for face.