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2014-10-02

Influenza vaccine available

Contributed

Flu vaccine has been arriving in doctor's offices, clinics and pharmacies across Texas, and medical administrators with the Texas Department of State Health Services encourage everyone six months old and older to get vaccinated now. Wednesday, Oct. 1 was designated as Texas Influenza Awareness Day and the traditional start to the flu season.
While DSHS encourages vaccination for everyone at least six months old, it is especially important for certain high-risk groups. People 65 and older, pregnant women, young children and those with chronic health conditions are at higher risk for serious complications and even death if they get the flu and should minimize that risk by getting vaccinated. Twenty children in Texas died as a result of the flu during the 2013-2014 flu season.
People need to be vaccinated each year because researchers determine which flu viruses are most likely to spread in that year and formulate the vaccine to protect against them. Getting vaccinated now will provide protection throughout the flu season.
"There are more options than ever to help protect you against the flu," said DSHS Commissioner Dr. David Lakey. "Whether you choose a standard shot that protects against three or four strains of the flu, the intradermal shot with a smaller needle, the nasal spray version, or a high-dose vaccine that can boost immunity for people 65 and older, the most important thing is that everyone six months old and older get vaccinated."
This season, all flu vaccines are made to protect against the strains A/California/7/2009 (H1N1), A/Texas/50/2012 (H3N2) and B/Massachusetts/2/2012. For the second year, some vaccines also include protection against a fourth strain, B/Brisbane/60/2008. About half of the 150 million or more doses produced this season are expected to be four-strain varieties.
In addition to getting vaccinated, people should help stop the spread of the flu and other illnesses by covering all coughs and sneezes, washing their hands frequently, disinfecting commonly touched surfaces and staying home when sick.
People can contact their health care provider, local health department or dial 2-1-1 to find out where to get a flu shot. Flu information and tips for protecting against the flu are at texasflu.org.