Iowa Department of Public Health Medical Director Caitlin Pedati says the flu-related deaths of two women should be a reminder to everyone to get a flu shot.

Doctor Pedati says a flu shot is still the best way to prevent you from getting sick — and it’s not too late in the season to for the shot to still be effective. “On our website you’ll see a flu vaccine finder tool if you are looking for places to get your flu vaccine. You can also work with public heath or your health care provider to do that. And it is definitely not too late,” Pedati says.

She says they flu appears to be more prevalent in Iowa now. “We really are seeing this activity in our communities and we are seeing it go up a little bit,” according to doctor Pedati. “And the idea with any vaccine is to get it before you get exposed — and so this would be a good time if you haven’t already to take advantage of getting your flu vaccine — and give your immune system some time to learn how to fight it off.”

Pedati says the flu vaccine provides protection that goes beyond the person getting it. “It also serves as a way to make it harder for the virus to move between us from person-to-person. And so, it provides protection for people who might have trouble fighting off the virus, as their immune system might not be as healthy as others,” Pedati says.The two confirmed the flu-related deaths were two women in central and northwest Iowa who had other underlying conditions.

Doctor Pedati says you should to take other precautions that will help prevent the spread of flu and other diseases. “We always want to remind people to cover your cough and your sneeze — to wash your hands — and to stay home and away from other people when you are sick,” she says.

The flu is a respiratory illness caused by viruses. Symptoms may include fever, headache, tiredness, cough, sore throat, nasal congestion and body aches. Illness typically lasts two to seven days, and often puts healthy people in bed for days. To learn more about flu in Iowa, go to the Iowa Department of Public Health website.