CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Fall is upon the Volunteer State—crisp weather, changing leaves, pumpkin pie, and flu shots. Yes, flu shots. For many Tennesseans, October signals that flu season is just around the corner.

To prevent influenza and its severe complications, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee reminds everyone to get an annual flu vaccination.

“Many Tennesseans can benefit from the protection of a flu shot,” said Dr. Steve Coulter, senior vice president and chief medical officer for BlueCross. “Even though the traditional flu season peaks from January through March, a person’s immune system takes several weeks to respond to the vaccine, so now is the time to act.”

This year the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are urging more Americans to get their flu shot. Officials want to prevent infection from the dangerous virus that hit the Southern Hemisphere during its recent flu season. And with an abundance of flu vaccine available, more Americans can protect themselves.

The CDC estimate that up to 20 percent of all Americans get the flu each year. An estimated 114,000 are sick enough to be admitted to a hospital, and approximately 36,000 die from the flu or its complications.

A common complication of the flu is pneumonia, especially in individuals age 65 and older. For this special group, a pneumococcal pneumonia vaccination is encouraged every five years.

According to BlueCross data, 46 percent of Tennessee seniors self-reported that they have never received a pneumonia vaccine.

“Too few people are taking the necessary precautions to stop a preventable illness,” Coulter said. “Statistics indicate the pneumonia vaccine is effective approximately 73 percent of the time for seniors and 90 percent for children.”

The influenza vaccination is strongly recommended for both healthy adults ages 50 to 64, and for those groups most at risk for serious illness caused by the flu:

• People age 65 or older;

• Children from 6 to 23 months old;

• Women who will be more than 3 months pregnant during the flu season (from October to May);

• Adults or children with chronic health conditions such as diseases of the lungs, heart or kidneys, or with diabetes;

• People living in a nursing home or other chronic care facility;

• Health care workers;

• People living with someone who is considered high-risk.

To obtain a flu or pneumonia shot or for more information, Tennesseans can contact their regular health care provider, local health department or other health care facilities.