The back-to-school season in August is a good reminder for families to get vaccinated for the upcoming flu season.

Health experts say October is typically when the earliest cases of flu appear, although infections have occurred earlier.

According to Joann Douglas, the Wake County Human Services immunization coordinator, North Carolina suffered a bad flu season last year.

“It was a very severe season,” she said.

Douglas pointed to state numbers that show the great toll of last year‘s flu season, with 389 flu-related deaths reported in the state.

People might be surprised by who was most affected by the flu virus — it wasn‘t the elderly. “People between 17 and 49 had the highest incidence of illness and the lowest vaccination rate,” said Douglas. “It just proves what we say — if you don‘t receive the flu vaccine, you‘re not protected.”

Douglas says the effectiveness of the flu vaccine for the entire season was about 40 percent, which is considered acceptable. What‘s new this season, she says, is the return of the “flu-mist nasal spray” form of the vaccine.

“They excluded it for two years, but it‘s back, so this company has demonstrated that this is a better vaccine than it was and it will protect people between the ages of 2 and 49,” said Douglas.

Douglas said the biggest lesson everyone should learn is don‘t wait too long to get vaccinated. “It will last through the entire season, even if you get it early,” she said. “So if you see that it‘s available somewhere, just take it then and avoid the rush.”

According to WRAL‘s Dr. Allen Mask, all new vaccines offer protection from four different flu strains, whether it is in the injectable form or in the flu nasal spray.

Depending on your age or particular health situation, the nasal spray vaccine may not be recommended, so talk to your doctor about your best flu vaccine options.