Oklahoma is currently among 24 states classified as having high levels of flu-like illnesses, but the Chickasaw Nation said it is not too late to get the vaccine.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), getting vaccinated is the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease, and vaccination efforts should continue as long as influenza viruses are circulating.

The vaccine is available for those who are eligible for care through the Chickasaw Nation Division of Health at the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center in Ada and at each of the satellite clinics including Ardmore and Tishomingo. The flu vaccine is also available at many other area locations, including Sovereign Medical Center in Ada, and at most pharmacies.

Chickasaw Nation health officials say that high levels of flu-like illnesses have been accompanied by an increase in people coming in for a flu shot over the last couple of months. Health officials encourage everyone ages six months and older to get a flu vaccine each year. Getting a flu shot is the most important step in protecting yourself against the virus. The vaccine also helps defend against unknowingly spreading the flu to co-workers, family members and others who may be at high risk for flu-related complications.

Certain age groups, such as children and adults 65 years of age and older, are commonly known to be at high risk for developing flu-related complications, but others should be aware as well. Pregnant women and Native Americans seem to be at a high risk also, according to the CDC.

The most common signs and symptoms of the flu are all or some combination of the following: fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue.

The flu virus is considered unpredictable in severity and can vary widely from one season to the next or from person to person. Complications from the flu are also unpredictable but can include pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration and worsening of already established medical conditions.

The virus spreads easily from person to person through sneezing, coughing, sharing drinks and sometimes by touch. Those who have contracted the flu are encouraged to keep a safe distance from others by staying home from work, school and other activities.

According to the CDC, most healthy adults have the ability to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to seven days after becoming sick. People with weakened immune systems and children may be able to infect others for a longer period of time.