BOISE, Idaho -

Public health officials said one woman from southeast Idaho and two from southwest Idaho have died from influenza-related causes this flu season.

All three were over the age of 50.

“Our thoughts are with the families of the people who died from complications of the flu,” said Dr. Kathryn Turner, PhD, Communicable Disease Prevention Bureau Chief at the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, in a news release. “With the holiday season fast approaching, we strongly urge people to be vaccinated for flu so they and their loved ones remain healthy through the season.”

This years’ influenza season has hit earlier than in previous years, making it even more critical to get the vaccine as soon as possible, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare said, adding that it is especially important that people at high risk for complications from the flu and anyone in close contact to those people are vaccinated.

People at higher risk include infants, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes, or heart disease and people 65 and older.

“This years’ flu vaccine is a great match to the circulating strains,” Turner said. “However, it takes about two weeks before peak antibody levels are reached and the vaccine’s protection is maximized. Unfortunately, only about a third of adults and 40 percent of children have received the flu vaccine so far this season. We’d really like to see an increase in vaccinations so people have a better chance at staying healthy.”

In addition to vaccines, people can take the following precautions to avoid spreading and getting the flu. State health officials are urging people to:

-- Cover their mouths and noses with a tissue when coughing or sneezing to prevent infecting other people.

-- Avoid people who appear sick.

-- Stay home from work when sick,

-- Wash their hands frequently, especially after being out in the public. Avoid touching their eyes, noses and mouths until they have washed their hands.

-- Get plenty of rest, drink plenty of liquids, eat nutritious foods and take part in physical activity to stay healthy.

For information about influenza and how to stay healthy, see www.cdc.gov/flu.