As peak flu season begins, Richard Webby, Ph.D., a member of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s Infectious Diseases Department, warned the American public today that the flu season is likely to get worse before it gets better. Webby advises the public to prepare now for a potentially extended 2019 season.

He also reminded Americans that the flu vaccine is still effective, and it is not too late to get the full benefits of a flu shot during this year’s flu season.

“Flu season is ramping up,” warned Webby, one of a select group of scientists responsible for recommending the composition of flu vaccines each year. “With 19 states reporting high levels of flu activity combined with a death toll of 13 children, the American public should be prepared for a significant increase in flu-related activity over the first few weeks of 2019. As we enter peak flu season, increased levels of activity are likely to continue for a number of months, putting our friends and neighbors at risk.”

According to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention flu activity report, 19 states have reported high levels of flu activity, more than double the activity of the previous week. CNN reported that 13 children have died so far this flu season, compared to 185 children during last year’s flu season – 80 percent of whom did not get a flu shot. Experts have indicated that flu season may extend longer than expected.

“The public should know that the flu vaccine is still effective for the current flu season,” Webby said. “It is not too late to get the full benefits of the vaccine, which continues to be the No. 1 most effective way to protect yourself, your neighbors and the most vulnerable. Get the flu vaccine now.”

Webby is also director of the World Health Organization’s Collaborating Center on the Ecology of Influenza in Animals and Birds, which focuses on understanding influenza and improving vaccines to combat the virus. Webby recently penned a guest column in FoxNews.com encouraging the public to get a flu shot regardless of health status, writing, “The more people who get the flu shot, the less chance the virus can spread while protecting more people.”

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s Infectious Diseases Department has released a fact sheet with useful tips on prevention titled “Controlling the Spread of Colds and Flu.”

Many pediatric patients at St. Jude are at a greater risk of getting sick from influenza (flu) and other viral infections because of their diseases and treatments. Therefore, helping to disseminate lifesaving educational information about flu prevention techniques is of paramount importance to the St. Jude Infectious Diseases Department. November through February are peak flu months, and last year’s flu season was one of the deadliest in history.