The city’s public health department is warning Hamiltonians to get the flu shot before they wind up giving the virus to someone for Christmas.

In 2013, there have been 23 reported cases of influenza serious enough to require hospitalization, public health’s Gayane Hovhannisyan said. In recent months, around 20 per cent of emergency room visits have been for influence or respiratory-like illness.

That’s just the “tip of the iceberg,” Hovhannisyan said, as there are many people suffering through the flu at home.

The city expects this year’s flu season to spike in mid-January, and this week the provincial Ministry of Health raised the influenza risk in Hamilton, along with much of the GTA, to “elevated.”

This year’s flu strains include the H1N1 virus, as well as several other less common versions of the virus.

Last year the flu season came early, Hovhannisyan said. This year you should get a flu shot before Christmas to protect you, she said, as the vaccine requires around two weeks to work properly.

Hovhannisyan said getting the vaccine is both important for you, and those around you.

“We’re all responsible for our community,” Hovhannisyan said.

You can also reduce your chances of getting the flu by doing the following:

  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Quickly dispose of used tissues
  • Cough or sneeze into your shirt sleeve
  • Stay home if you’re feeling sick, and encourage others to do the same

You can get a free flu shot at the doctors office, or at a local pharmacy. There are 100 pharmacists in Hamilton giving out flu shots in Hamilton