October is the traditional start of the flu season in Texas, and health professionals urge Texans to get their annual flu shots soon.
“We have already seen an increase in flu activity in Texas and now is the time to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Lisa Cornelius, an infectious diseases medical officer with the Texas Department of State Health Services. “A dose of vaccine now will help protect people throughout the season. There is no reason to put it off.”
Dr. Maurice Alazar, an internal medicine physician on staff at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Cleburne, said he hasn’t seen many flu cases yet this fall. But, he added, people should get vaccinated to stop infections before they can start.
“The flu is a very unpredictable disease,” Alazar said. “Flu season here in Texas is usually October through December. But it can start early, and it can last through ’til May.”
Alazar said the flu is a viral infection that can come on quickly and be severe. Symptoms of the flu include a cough, cold, fever, sore throat, chills, fatigue and body aches, and he warned against passing those symptoms off as a mere cold.
“It may be just a cold, but don’t take that chance,” Alazar said. “Go see a doctor.”
There is a simple test that can determine whether an infection is a cold or the flu. If it is the flu, treatments are available that can, if administered early enough, cut short the duration of the flu and its severity.
Flu vaccines protect against the flu virus for about a year. A new vaccine mix is developed to combat the strains researchers expect to be circulating each year.
Alazar said he recommends that everyone from age 6 months and up get vaccinated against the flu, but children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with chronic illnesses are especially susceptible to complications and even death. He said that those who will be around children too young to be vaccinated should be vaccinated themselves to keep from spreading the virus to the babies.