LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Los Angeles County’s top health official is urging residents to get flu shots to protect themselves during the busy holiday season.

“The holiday season is here and we’re encouraging everyone to spread holiday cheer, not the flu,” said Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, the county’s interim health officer. “A person with the flu can spread it as far as six feet away, through coughs and sneezes.”

By vaccinating now, residents will be protected at the time when they are most likely to be exposed to the virus, Gunzenhauser said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months be vaccinated against the flu. However, some people are at greater risk for flu-related complications, including:

•  pregnant women;

•  children younger than 5 years old;

•  adults 65 years old and older;

•  individuals with weakened immune systems or medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or lung disease; and

•  health care and child care workers.

Health care officials recommend that some children between the ages of 6 months and 8 years receive a second vaccine dose this flu season for better protection. Parents who aren’t certain whether a second dose is due should ask their child’s health care provider.

The Department of Public Health offers free vaccines for residents without health insurance or a regular source of health care. No appointments are needed, but residents should check clinic hours.

More information is available at www.publichealth.lacounty.gov.