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2013-01-17

Get vaccinated, seek treatment for flu

Contributed

With reports of flu widespread across Texas, state health officials urge people to get a flu shot now and take other steps to protect themselves from the flu and its possible complications.
"Texas, like much of the country, saw an early start to the flu season and continues to experience a high level of flu and flu-like illness," said Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner Dr. David Lakey. "The best thing people can do to protect themselves is to get a dose of flu vaccine now. There is plenty of vaccine available."
Each season's vaccine provides protection against three strains of flu. Researchers with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say this year's vaccine is well matched with the strains now circulating. While the number of flu cases in Texas is high, DSHS has no indication that cases have been more severe than usual this season.
DSHS medical personnel recommend vaccination for everyone six months old and older. It's especially important for those in high-risk groups like children, people ages 65 and older, pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions. People in those groups are more likely to experience serious or life-threatening complications from flu such as bacterial pneumonia, ear and sinus infections, dehydration and worsening of chronic conditions like congestive heart failure, asthma or diabetes.
Flu symptoms usually start abruptly and include fever, body aches, chills, a dry cough, sore throat, runny nose and extreme fatigue and can last a week or longer. There is an adequate supply of antiviral medications that can help lessen the severity and duration of the flu when started within 48 hours after symptoms appear.
"I encourage people who have a sudden onset of fever along with a cough or sore throat to talk to their doctor as soon as they can about possible treatment," Lakey said.
In addition to getting vaccinated, people should remember to protect themselves and others from flu and other respiratory illnesses by washing their hands frequently, covering all coughs and sneezes and staying home if they're sick.
For more information on the flu, including a vaccine finder, visit TexasFlu.org. People can also contact their health care provider, local health department or dial 2-1-1 to find out where to get a flu shot.