The Texas Department of State Health Services is urging everyone over 6 months old to get a dose of seasonal flu vaccine as soon as possible.

“Even if you had a flu shot during the last flu season, it’s time to get vaccinated again,” said Dr. David Lakey, DSHS commissioner. “The protection provided by the vaccine decreases over time, so everyone needs to be immunized each year.”

DSHS has already seen an increase in flu-like illness in Texas over the last few weeks. Vaccination is encouraged now because it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to become effective.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone at least 6 months old be vaccinated against seasonal flu. The CDC also says that children ages 6 months to 8 years who did not get at least one dose of the 2010-2011 flu vaccine should get two doses of the vaccine this season.

A nasal spray vaccine is an option for healthy people ages 2 to 49 who are not pregnant. There is also a high-dose vaccine designed for people 65 and over and a new intradermal shot with a much shorter needle available for some adults.

The flu is caused by various influenza viruses. Symptoms include fever, coughing, sore throat, aches, chills and fatigue. Most healthy people recover without problems, but people 65 and over, pregnant women, young children and people with chronic health conditions are at higher risk for serious complications and even death. It is especially important for people in those high-risk groups to be vaccinated.

Flu vaccine is reformulated each year to match the influenza viruses expected to circulate. Experts anticipate continuing to see the same types of flu as last year, so the vaccine will again protect against the strains A/California/7/2009 (H1N1), A/Perth/16/2009 (H3N2) and B/Brisbane/60/2008.

Getting an annual flu vaccine is the best way to prevent flu from spreading. Also, cover all coughs and sneezes, wash hands frequently with soap and water or hand sanitizer and stay home if sick.

People should contact their health care provider, local health department or 2-1-1 to find out where to get a flu shot. Flu information and tips for protecting against the flu are at