As the first flu cases of the season start to emerge, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging citizens to get the flu vaccine early.

“An annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect against flu and its potentially serious complications,” says the CDC’s weekly FluView report.

While flu activity throughout the country remains low, the CDC suggests that everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine before the end of October. The CDC recommendation comes as medical centers brace for higher rates of COVID-19 during the colder months, when more people are gathering inside with more opportunities to spread the virus.

In the United States, the percentage of specimens testing positive for the novel coronavirus and the percentage of visits to emergency departments or outpatient clinicians for COVID-like illness and influenza-like illness have increased slightly in recent weeks.

However, the percentage of respiratory specimens testing positive for influenza remains low at 0.3%, in contrast to the current high rate of pneumonia mortality, which stands at 7.6% for the reported week. The CDC data suggests that COVID-19 is still more active than all strains of influenza.

Currently, only 1.2% of visits to healthcare providers are for flu-like illness, which is lower than the typical rate for this time of the year, according to the most recent CDC data.

The CDC says that a shift in healthcare seeking behaviors due to the coronavirus pandemic could be having an impact on reports of flu-like illness. The CDC suggests that a change in patient behavior could be altering the numbers of reported influenza cases.