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2015-10-08

Flu season returns, get vaccinated now

Contributed

Flu vaccine is now available in Texas, and health administrators with the Texas Department of State Health Services remind people that there is no reason to wait to be vaccinated. The number of flu cases will soon be increasing, so people should protect themselves and their families with flu shots now.
Everyone ages six months and older should get vaccinated. People age 65 and older, pregnant women, young children and those with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease or kidney and liver disorders are more susceptible to serious influenza complications, so flu vaccine is especially important for them.
"People in these higher risk groups should also see their health care provider promptly if they do get the flu," said Dr. Lisa Cornelius, DSHS infectious diseases medical officer. "A doctor can prescribe antiviral medications that can make the illness shorter and less severe and help prevent complications. Treatment works best if it is started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms."
Influenza is an illness caused by one of a number of related viruses. Symptoms usually start abruptly and include fever, body aches, chills, a dry cough, sore throat, runny nose, headaches and extreme fatigue and can last a week or longer.
The flu vaccine is formulated every year to match the flu viruses researchers think will be circulating. Last year, changes in the flu virus caused the vaccine to be less effective. The strain that caused most of the illness last year is incorporated into this season's vaccine, and researchers expect it to be much more effective.
All flu vaccines this season are made to protect against viruses similar to the strains A/California/7/2009 (H1N1), A/Switzerland/9715293/2013 (H3N2) and B/Phuket/3073/2013. Some vaccines will again provide protection against a fourth strain, B/Brisbane/60/2008.
While getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent the flu, people should also:
• Wash their hands frequently or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
• Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or their arm or sleeve.
• Avoid touching their eyes, nose or mouth.
•Keep a distance from people who are sick.
• Stay home if sick.
People can contact their health care provider, local health department or local pharmacy or dial 2-1-1 to find out where flu shots are available. Flu information and tips for protecting against the flu are available at texasflu.org.