Over the river and through the woods, to gather — and potentially share flu bugs with relatives — we go! The physicians of the Texas Medical Association (TMA) remind everyone to get a flu shot now before you get close to loved ones for Thanksgiving and the holiday season.

“During the holidays, the flu can easily be transmitted to family, friends, and fellow travelers. Now is the ideal time to get vaccinated to minimize one’s risk for getting and spreading the flu,” said Edward A. Dominguez, MD, a member of TMA’s Be Wise—ImmunizeSM physician advisory panel.

Getting the shot can protect you and others. “Although someone might only have a mild case of the flu, he or she could transmit the virus to more susceptible people, such as infants and the elderly, and make them very sick,” said Dr. Dominguez. “One benefit of vaccines like the flu vaccine is they protect the recipient plus those with whom he or she comes in contact.”

Don’t like sharp needles? There are several ways to receive the flu vaccine, some without the needle’s sharp poke. Most flu vaccines are given by the well-known shot, though you also might be able to get it by jet injector (a pressurized needle-less shot), or a small needle just under your skin (rather than in the muscle), or by nasal spray. The best bet is to ask your doctor about your options.

“The flu virus is dangerous and kills thousands of people every year. A flu vaccination is one of the safest, best ways to prevent it,” said Dr. Dominguez.

So TMA works to ensure as many people can get the flu shot as possible. TMA’s Be Wise — Immunize Local Impact Grants program helps local groups provide free or low-cost flu shots for people in their communities who are uninsured or underinsured, or who face other obstacles. TMA has awarded 32 grants totaling more than $50,000 since launching this local grants program. Half of the grants funded flu vaccinations in Texas.

While shots help prevent the flu, Dr. Dominguez also reminds everyone to cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing, and to wash their hands frequently.

“Although the flu is a respiratory virus, we have learned that it can be spread easily by the hands. Simple prevention like hand washing can be very effective in decreasing transmission,” he said.