This flu season has presented special challenges this year and health departments are calling on the public and health-care providers to do their part to protect those who are most vulnerable to serious complications from flu.

Flu season typically occurs from late November through March in Connecticut. Most of the roughly 20,000 people who die each year from flu complications are elderly, chronically ill, or both. High risk groups include the following:

People age 65 and older

Residents of long-term care facilities

Adults and children with chronic diseases such as heart or lung disease (including asthma), diabetes, or severe anemia.

Persons with compromised immunity (e.g. those with HIV disease or undergoing cancer chemotherapy)

Children and teen-agers 6months to 18 years of age on long-term aspirin treatment (due to the risk of developing Reyes Syndrome after influenza).

Women who will be 6 or more months pregnant or will have just delivered during the influenza season.

Health-care workers who have direct patient care who are in frequent contact with high-risk individuals.

Until you are vaccinated, the best way to avoid the flu is to maintain a healthy immune system by reducing stress, eating a healthy diet, exercising and getting enough sleep. In addition, wash your hands often with soap and water. Germs can be picked up easily when shaking someone's hand or touching doorknobs. Avoid crowded conditions and coming into contact with others who are sneezing and coughing.