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(dailynews.com) With 19 influenza related deaths reported so far in Los Angeles County this season, public health officials offered some advice Wednesday: “Continue spreading holiday cheer and not the flu.”

The nudge toward urging people to get vaccinated comes as Los Angeles and many other counties are seeing widespread flu, an uptick in cases and increased visits to emergency rooms. This year’s dominate strain, Influenza A (H3N2) is known to cause severe illness and send more people to the hospital, said Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, Interim Health Officer for Los Angeles County.

Gunzenhauser said the number of people who have died so far this season is more when compared to the same time last year. He said older people with underlying health conditions are most at risk.

“Flu activity usually peaks in January and February, but this season we are seeing flu activity earlier than usual so getting vaccinated now is important,” he said. “Getting vaccinated against flu protects both the person who receives the vaccine and also reduces the chance they will become ill and spread the flu to family and friends.”

The CDC has said this year’s flu vaccine is a good match for the strains that are going around, Gunzenhauser added.

During the 2016-2017 season, there were 77 deaths confirmed to be caused by influenza in Los Angeles County, public health officials said. That’s 7 more than the year before.

Influenza symptoms include fever or feeling feverish, a cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, chills and fatigue. Most people with the flu are able to treat themselves at home, health officials say, but in some, the disease can lead to complications including pneumonia, seizures, and worsening of chronic medical conditions such as diabetes and heart or lung disease.

Free flu shots are available throughout Los Angeles County. For more information go to publichealth.lacounty.gov or call 2-1-1.