Don’t skip out on flu vaccine this year
Flu vaccine prevents millions of illnesses and flu-related doctor’s visits each year. And with the flu season expected to pick up in coming weeks, those who haven’t received the vaccine should consider doing so.
Already, 1,166 flu cases have been reported to the Galveston County Health District (GCHD) Oct. 1-Nov. 30.
Flu activity often begins to increase in October, hitting its peak between December and February.
“We encourage everyone to receive their flu vaccine early in the season, often by the end of October, but there is still time to be vaccinated,” said Eileen Dawley, RN, GCHD chief nursing officer. “As long as there is flu virus spreading, you and your family are at risk of possibly becoming sick. Vaccination provides the best protection.”
The flu vaccine does not cause flu illness. The viruses in the flu vaccine are inactivated, meaning they are dead, so they cannot cause an infection.
Flu cases reported to the health district are expected to pick up in coming weeks. Dec. 2-8 marks National Influenza Vaccination Week, a time to highlight protection offered by the flu vaccine.
People 6 months and older should be vaccinated for the flu. Vaccination is especially important for certain high-risk groups including those age 65 and older, pregnant women, young children and those with chronic health conditions, who are at higher risk for complications or even death if they get the flu.
Vaccination is also important for health care workers and others who live with or care for high risk people to keep from spreading the flu to them.
The virus is spread mainly by droplets made when someone with the flu coughs, sneezes or talks. Those droplets can then land in the mouths or noses of people nearby. The virus is also spread when a person touches an item that has flu virus on it and then touches their mouth, eyes or nose.
Remember to stop spread of the flu and other illnesses by covering all coughs and sneezes with elbows, washing hands frequently, disinfecting commonly touched surfaces and staying home when sick.
Flu-like symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people, especially children, may have vomiting and diarrhea. People may also be infected with flu and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.
“The flu isn’t your common cold. Left untreated, and sometimes even treated, the flu can lead to serious health conditions including pneumonia and can lead to hospitalization and sometimes, even death,” Dawley said.
“The flu vaccine can reduce flu illness and flu-related hospitalizations. Flu vaccinations can reduce doctor visits, missed days at work and missed days at school,” Dawley added. “It is important to get your flu vaccine each year. Your immune protection from vaccination drops over time so yearly vaccines help make sure you have the best protection available against the flu.”
Take every day preventive actions to stop the spread of germs:
• Try to avoid close contact with those who are sick.
• While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
• If sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone, except to get medical care or for other necessities.
• Cover the nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Throw the tissue away after use and wash hands.
• Wash hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
• Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
• Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like flu.
The flu vaccine is available at the GCHD Immunization Clinic, 9850-B Emmett F. Lowry Expressway in Texas City. The clinic is walk-in and open Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m. with extended hours on Tuesday to 7 p.m. Flu shots are $34 each. Medicare and Blue Cross Blue Shield, cash, check, debit and credit cards are accepted. For more information, call 409-949-3459.