Now is the time to get your flu shot

As flu season approaches, the Texas Department of State Health Services encourages everyone 6 months old and older to get vaccinated now to protect themselves from getting the flu.

“The flu vaccine causes your body to make antibodies to fight influenza, but it takes about two weeks for this to happen. So, it’s important to get the flu vaccine early, before influenza hits your community,” said Dr. Jennifer Shuford, DSHS Infectious Disease Medical Officer. “By getting the flu vaccine every year, you can help protect yourself from influenza, and thereby prevent spreading it to vulnerable people in your family or community.”

It is especially important for people with chronic health conditions, pregnant women, young children, older adults, and the people who live with them to get vaccinated in order to minimize the risk of developing serious complications from the flu. Family members and others around babies should get vaccinated to protect the babies and themselves since infants under 6 months of age cannot get vaccinated.

Influenza is an illness caused by one of a number of related viruses. 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.

All flu vaccines this season are made to protect against viruses similar to the strains A/Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1), A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 (H3N2) and B/Brisbane/60/2008 (B/Victoria lineage). Some vaccines include an additional vaccine virus strain, B/Phuket/3073/2013 (B/Yamagata lineage).

The CDC advises against the use of the live attenuated influenza vaccine, commonly called the “nasal spray” vaccine and sold under the trade name FluMist. Research from prior flu seasons measured no protective benefit.

People can contact their health care provider, local health department, local pharmacy or use the Vaccine Finder at TexasFlu.org to find out where flu shots are available.

If people are experiencing flu symptoms, health officials encourage them to seek treatment promptly. Antiviral drugs may help shorten the duration or lessen the severity of the flu if started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.