Health officials in New York are urging residents to get their flu shots amid a rise in cases this month. 

The state Department of Health on Wednesday reported an "early and substantial increase" in flu cases so far in October. As of this week, the number of counties reporting flu cases has reached 44. 

The New York City area, along with the Capital Region and central New York are reporting 57% of the 596 confirmed influenza cases statewide, the Department of Health said. By comparison, there were 150 cases reported as of Oct. 9 a year ago. 

New York Health Commissioner Mary Bassett said New Yorkers should consider getting their flu shot earlier than they may normally and noted it can be paired with a COVID-19 booster. 

“I urge all New Yorkers to protect themselves and their family and friends by getting a flu vaccine as soon as possible,” Bassett said. “With the early and aggressive spread of influenza, the annual flu shot is the most effective protection against serious illness. The COVID-19 booster can also be administered at the same time as the flu shot to further protect your health and those around you.”

New York has largely dropped most of its COVID-related restrictions and guidelines for testing and mask-wearing. Health officials expect a more active flu season this year as more people return to workplaces, schools and other public gatherings.