Health Officials: Get a flu shot now

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With recent reports of people having the flu,  health officials are suggesting getting the shots now and not waiting.

According to Sabrina Davis of the UTMB-Orange County Health Department, the best prevention to avoid the flu this season is to get the vaccination.

“It takes about two weeks before a person is protected after being vaccinated,” Davis said.

The seasonal flu usually begins to spread around Oct. 1 through March 31, with the peak month being February.

With seasonal flu, the flu season varies in terms of timing, duration and severity. Seasonal influenza can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Each year, in the United States, on average 36,000 people die from flu-related complications and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu-related causes. Of those hospitalized, 20,000 are children younger than 5 years old. Over 90 percent of deaths and about 60 percent of hospitalizations occur in people older than 65, according to the Center for Disease Control.

“The elderly, young and people with compromised immune systems should get a flu shot,” Davis said. “Children over six months old should also get a flu shot.”

Children under nine years old and it is the first time ever getting a shot should return after four weeks for a second shot, she added.

Once is person is vaccinated, they may feel achy or fatigued, but this is not common. Most people may only experience tenderness at the site of the injection, Davis said.

With the seasonal flu, certain people are at “high risk” of serious complications. This includes people 65 years and older, children younger than five years old, pregnant women, and people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions. About 70 percent of people who have been hospitalized with the virus have had one or more medical conditions previously recognized as placing people at “high risk” of serious seasonal flu-related complications. This includes pregnancy, diabetes, heart disease, asthma and kidney disease, according to the CDC.

Dr. Servet Satir, said he has seen a “fair” amount of patients with the flu although he thinks the worst is over and the number of cases may decline. He added, some people may have gotten their flu shot way  of the Golden Triangle Family Care Center, in Bridge City, said people who received flu shots too early left them vulnerable to contracting the flu.

“Flu shots given way to early may leave a person unprotected,” Satir said.

However, he added, it is not too late to get a flu shot now for this season.

To help avoid contracting the virus, the CDC recommends;

• A person should cover their nose and mouth with a tissue when they cough or sneeze. The tissue should be thrown away after each use. In addition, it is suggested people cough into their sleeve or shoulder area. Cough and flu viruses mainly spread through people’s coughs and sneezes. The droplets from the coughs and sneezes spray into the air and into the mouths or noses of people nearby. The droplets also land on surfaces that people touch before touching their nose, mouth or eyes.

• They should wash their hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

• Everyone should avoid touching their eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.

• Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

•Anyone who is sick with flu-like illness,  the CDC recommends staying home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. The fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medication. People who are ill should stay away from others as much as possible to keep from making others sick.

The Texas Department of Health recommends people not touch their eyes, nose, or mouth. They also need to wash their hands frequently and keep an alcohol-based sanitizer handy for times when soap and water are not available.

People who do get the flu should act responsibly. Anyone suspecting they have the flu should call their family physician as soon as possible.

When coughing or sneezing, people should stay at least three feet away from other people.

The Orange County Health Department has about 30 flu vaccines on hand. They have also ordered more vaccines. They are giving them by appointment on Fridays and cost $14. The number to call for an appointment is 409-883-6119.

Area pharmacies are also giving flu shots. At both Walgreens and CVS pharmacies they are $31.99. No appointment is necessary and are given during open hours. Family Pharmacy in Bridge City is also giving shots. They are $27.

For more information, people are encouraged to contact their local pharmacy or doctor.

Pictured: Nicole Gibbs, of Bridge City, is given a flu shot by Bobby Duhon of the Family Pharmacy in Bridge City. Health officials are suggesting everyone get a flu shot now.