With widespread reports of respiratory influenza across Iowa and other parts of the country, Black Hawk County Health officials say it's not too late to get a flu shot.

The flu season typically peaks in February and can last until May. Doctors say vaccination is the best defense against the flu. The Iowa Department of Public Health recommends all Iowans over the age of 6 months receive the vaccine.

Influenza is a respiratory illness with fever, headache, tiredness, cough, sore throat, nasal congestion and body aches. Health officials says flu illness typically lasts two to seven days. It comes on suddenly and may cause severe illness or even death.

Polk County Medical Examiner Dr. Gregory Schmunk says a spike in flu deaths shows this year's flu outbreak is more serious than last winter. According to Schmunk, he's seen 12 death certificates since November citing flu as a main or contributing cause of death. The number, so far, is four times more than what Schmunk reported in the Des Moines area last winter.

Polk is Iowa's most-populous county, so the numbers there are a good indication of how serious the trend is state-wide.

While the flu vaccine is not working as well as usual against some viruses, health officials say vaccination can still protect people against other flu viruses and reduce hospitalizations and deaths.

The Black Hawk County Health Department, located on the 5th Floor of the Pinecrest Building at 1407 Independence Avenue in Waterloo, has a limited supply of flu vaccine available for adults 18-years-old and older. The cost is $25 with a sliding fee discount available for those who qualify. To make an appointment, call 319-291-2413.