CHIPLEY — Although the flu season regularly peaks in January and February, that doesn’t mean it’s too late for a flu shot.

CHIPLEY — Although the flu season regularly peaks in January and February, that doesn’t mean it’s too late for a flu shot.

Northwest Florida Community Hospital’s Nursing Compliance Manager Eileen Swindle told the Washington County Chamber of Commerce members Thursday that influenza is still being spread and the best defense against getting the flu is a flu shot, even this late in the flu season.

Swindle said about 49,000 people die each year in the U.S. due to the flu, and more than 250,000 are hospitalized each year.

“It takes about two weeks for the immunization against the flu to take effect,” Swindle said. Children, people 65 and older, and those with compromised immune systems or chronic ailments are especially susceptible to the flu and should definitely seek out flu shots.

“People who are caregivers for at-risk patients should also be sure to get the flu shot, that way they can’t take the infection home.”

Wednesday, NFCH saw a record number of patients in the Emergency Room. “During the last 24 hours largest number of individuals came into hospital seeking emergency services, primarily because of the flu,” said NFCH CEO/President Pat Schelnker.

“Everybody who catches a cold doesn’t necessary have the flu,” Swindle said. She noted that flu is transmitted by sneezing or coughing, and said that droplets have been recorded traveling up to six feet following a sneeze. The flu virus can also live on a surface for up to eight hours.

“The best defense is washing your hands, you can’t wash your hands enough,” Swindle said. “You don’t want to become a germaphobe, but washing your hands and using hand sanitizer can definitely make a difference.”

The flu shot should be taken annually, Swindle said, and the more people around you are also vaccinated then less your chance of contracting the flu decreases.

“The reason the shot is needed each year is the virus changes,” she said. “The effectiveness of the flu shot ranges from 60 to 90 percent. This year the effectiveness has been about 60 to 70 percent.”

In other Chamber business, Executive Director Ted Everett announced that State Representative Marti Coley and State Senator Don Gaetz would be in Chipley from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Jan. 29 at the PAEC to meet with the public and community leaders.

“We are lucky to have such legislators representing Northwest Florida,” Everett said. Coley is the Speaker Pro Tem of the state House of Representatives, and Gaetz is the president of the Senate.

“They are here to meet with you and they want to hear your ideas of what needs to be done for our area,” Everett said.

The Chipley Garden Club also announced the December Yard of the Month award went to Martha Nebel for her home on Court Avenue.