WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — Local health officials are warning North Country residents of the dangers of this year’s flu season amid COVID-19 surges.

On Monday, the St. Lawrence County Public Health Department issued a statement to the community regarding Influenza season, specifically flu vaccinations. According to the Department,the county is already seeing an increase in flu cases.

Across the state during the first week of December there were 2,871 cases of Influenza confirmed. This is a 153% increase from the previous week.

“Our hospitals are strained and near maximum capacity at this time, due to caring for patients with COVID-19 and other illnesses. The burden of people sick with flu will continue to overwhelm our hospitals,” SLCPH said in a press release.

Health officials state that flu symptoms can start suddenly, appearing one to four days after exposure. Symptoms can include fever, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, headaches, fatigue and occasional vomiting.

To combat the spread of the flu, as well as preventing severe cases, health officials recommend getting the flu vaccine

“The best way to prevent flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year. Being vaccinated for flu and COVID-19 can greatly reduce a person’s need to be hospitalized if they become infected with either of these illnesses,” the Department added.

Those over the age of six months are eligible to receive a flu vaccination. The Department stated that the vaccine is especially important for those at higher risk of complications, such as those over 65, children younger than five, pregnant women and those with certain health conditions.

Influenza vaccinations can be administered at the same time as COVID-19 vaccinations. These are offered at most local health departments, healthcare providers and pharmacies.