Given that 80,000 Americans died due to the flu last winter, local and state health experts strongly urge vaccination and prevention for the upcoming flu season.

The Berkshire Eagle reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently called the flu death rate for 2017-18 the highest in 40 years.

Just as disconcerting to local health agencies were the 180 young children and teenagers among the 80,000, also the highest in more than a decade, according to the CDC.

Health officials can't pinpoint any single reason for the spike in flu deaths.

The number of flu-related deaths nationwide varies annually because flu seasons often differ in length and severity.

In Massachusetts, 250 to 1,100 people die each year from the flu, according to the state Department of Public Health.

Prime candidates for a flu shot include young children, adults 65 and older, and high-risk people with a weakened immune system due to heart problems, cancer or other illnesses.

High risk or not, everyone should get vaccinated, said Michael Perreault, registered nurse and director of Infection Prevention for Berkshire Medical Center.

Oh, and there's no proof you can get the flu from a flu shot.

Beyond the flu shot, basic hygiene remains crucial to ward off all winter ills.

Health experts say it begins with hand-washing at home or work.

Those who are sick should not go into work and avoid social functions and other gathering places to keep from spreading the flu, common cold, and other viral illnesses.

As the flu season ramps up, so will Berkshire Health Systems' efforts to remind people not to visit patients at BMC, Fairview Hospital or any other BHS facilities if they are younger than 18, ill or are experiencing flu or flu-like symptoms.

Those symptoms include fever, chills, body aches, coughing or fatigue.