September 18, 2009
By David L. Lakey, M.D.
Commissioner, Texas Department of State Health Services
We are facing a unique flu season.
We will have the traditional seasonal flu that we have had every year for centuries. It’ll make people sick, but the vast majority will recover on their own. Some will be hospitalized, and unfortunately some will die.
The unique part is that we also have the novel H1N1 flu virus, a form of the flu virus no one had seen before last April. It’ll make people sick, but the vast majority will recover on their own. Some will be hospitalized, and unfortunately some will die.
But there are ways to keep yourself and your family from getting the flu in the first place.
Get a seasonal flu vaccination and an H1N1 flu vaccination. The seasonal flu vaccine is available now. The FDA-approved H1N1 flu vaccine will be available starting in October. One vaccine won’t do the work of the other. You need both. Both are similarly safe. Though neither is mandated by government, both are strongly recommended.
The seasonal flu vaccine is for just about anyone 6 months old or older. Most people will require just one dose, but some children under 9 years of age may need two doses given at least four weeks apart.
The H1N1 vaccine will be available for certain priority groups first and later for just about anyone 6 months old or older. The priority groups are: pregnant women, household contacts and caregivers for children under 6 months old, healthcare and emergency medical services personnel, all people ages 6 months through 24 years and people ages 25 years through 64 years who have health conditions that put them at high risk of complications should they get the flu.
Most people will require just one dose of the H1N1 vaccine, but two doses are needed for children under 10 years of age.
Vaccines are powerful weapons against the flu. But there’s another powerful weapon in the arsenal: You.
To reduce the spread of flu viruses – any of them – you should:
- Cover your coughs and sneezes.
- Wash your hands often and well.
- Stay home if you’re sick.
Remember, most flu cases can be successfully treated at home, without having to go to the doctor or without making an unnecessary trip to the emergency room.
These are simple instructions. But they are extremely effective in reducing the spread of germs, including flu viruses. Follow them. Instill them in other family members, especially your children.
You can reduce your chances of getting the flu. You can avoid adding to the burden on the health care system. Take advantage of the vaccines. Practice those simple precautions. This flu season may be unique, but we can meet the challenge.
For more information visit www.TexasFlu.org.
(News Media Contact: Doug McBride, DSHS Press Officer, 512-458-7524.) Downloadable photo of Dr. Lakey available.