January 12, 2005
Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) officials reported today that influenza activity in the state last week rose to the widespread classification for the first time this flu season.
Officials say it is not too late to get a flu shot and encourage those in the priority groups to get one.
Flu season officially runs from October through May. In Texas, the heavy part of flu season typically occurs in late December, January and February.
Flu is not a reportable condition in Texas, but DSHS relies on reports from a surveillance network to classify flu activity and report weekly to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
CDC flu activity classifications are no activity, sporadic, local, regional and widespread. The widespread classification is used when there is an increase in flu and flu-like illnesses and recent laboratory confirmed flu in at least half of a state's regions. Ten of Texas' 11 health regions had increased flu activity last week.
The A/Fujian and B/Shanghai forms of the flu virus have been identifed in Texas. Both are covered by this season's vaccine.
The expanded priority groups for the flu shot are children 6 months through 23 months of age, adults 50 and older, anyone with underlying chronic medical conditions, women who will be pregnant during flu season, residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, children 6 months through 18 years on chronic aspirin therapy, medical care workers providing direct patient care and caregivers and household contacts of children under 6 months old and of others at high risk of severe complications from the flu.
More vaccine has been shipped to Texas providers in recent weeks. People wanting to get a flu shot should contact their doctor, call the 2-1-1 information service and call their local public health department or nearest DSHS regional office.
It takes about two weeks after getting the flu shot for the vaccine to offer maximum protection.
FluMist, a nasal spray vaccine that contains live weakened flu virus, may be used to vaccinate most healthy individuals from 5 years through 49 years of age who are not pregnant .
A pneumococcal vaccine also is recommended for people 65 and older and those with chronic health problems to protect against pneumonia caused by pneumococcus bacteria. Pneumonia is often a complication of influenza.
(News Media: for more information contact Doug McBride, DSHS Press Officer, 512-458-7524.)