FROM STAFF REPORTS
While people tend to connect influenza with the colder, winter months, the flu season is already upon us.
The Texas Department of State Health Services is encouraging everyone 6 months or older to get vaccinated now to protect themselves from getting the flu. According to the DSHS, early vaccination is important because it takes about two weeks for the body to make flu antibodies after the vaccine is administered.
As Oct. 1 is Texas Influenza Awareness Day, it’s a good day to get a vaccination, or schedule one.
“This year, there are many different flu vaccines available, and they have all been updated for this flu season,’ said Dr. Jennifer Shuford, DSHS Infectious Disease Medical Officer. “The nasal spray flu vaccine, also known as FluMist, is once again on the list of recommended flu vaccines for the upcoming flu season. There are also special flu vaccines designed for people 65 years and older. Your doctor can help you figure out which vaccine is right for you.”
The DSHS recommends all people get vaccinated but emphasized it’s extremely important for individuals with chronic health conditions, pregnant women, young children, and older adults.
While a lot of people focus on the disease being a major medical issue for children, the elderly, or those with health issues, the flu can send even teens, young adults, or otherwise healthy adults to the emergency room.
Or even worse.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 172 American children and teens died from the flu last winter. Of those, 80 percent had not been vaccinated.
The CDC reported that last flu season was the worst in the past 40 years with more than 80,000 people dying from influenza-related illnesses in the United States.
According to statistics, the U.S. flu vaccination rate is about 47 percent while health officials want to get it up to 70 percent.
Influenza is an illness caused by one of a number of related viruses, according to state health officials. Symptoms usually start suddenly and include fever, body aches, chills, a dry cough, sore throat, runny nose, headaches, and extreme fatigue and can last a week or longer. It is important to note that not all flu sufferers will have a fever.
People can help stop the spread of illness and reduce their chance of catching the flu by getting vaccinated, washing hands frequently, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home if they’re sick. Additional flu information and tips are at TexasFlu.org.
If a person does begin experiencing flu-related symptoms, DSHS officials recommend they seek medical attention as soon as possible because antiviral drugs may help shorten the duration or lessen the severity of the flu if started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.
Go to dshs.texas.gov for more information. Contact your health care provider to get a flu shot.