Published: Jan 02, 2013 11:53 PM EST

Fort Myers, Fla.-- The Lee County Health Department is urging residents and visitors to protect themselves and children from the most common cause of respiratory illness this year by getting a flu shot this week, before sending children back to school. This is the height of flu season, and not too late to prevent illness.

Influenza A and B can be avoided by getting the flu shot. Both are being seen in increasing numbers this year, according to Centers for Disease Control data and Lee County hospital emergency department data.

"We are so lucky to have the opportunity to avoid getting sick with this year's flu shot," said Director of the Lee County Health Department Dr. Judith Hartner, MD. "The shot is a good match to the circulating influenza virus. Some years we are not as well matched."

Flu vaccines are dispensed in mist form, for those who are afraid of needles, as well as injection form. Both forms are readily available at the health department's clinic in North Fort Myers on Pondella Road, private health care practitioner's offices and most local pharmacies.

"Anyone who is exposed to the public is strongly encouraged to get a flu shot," said Hartner. "Illness by large numbers of health care workers, including kitchen staff and cleaning crews, teachers and business professionals can be devastating."  

"The best defense is hand washing, hand washing and more hand washing," added Hartner. "There is no better prevention than covering coughs and sneezes then thoroughly washing your hands with soap and water or by using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer."