October 2, 2007
Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) officials are encouraging everyone 6 months and older to receive a flu shot as soon as the vaccine is available in their communities. A record 132 million doses of vaccine are expected to be available in the United States this flu season.
“Flu is more than just a bad cold that makes people feel uncomfortable,” said Dr. David Lakey, DSHS Commissioner. “This viral infection can lead to a serious, sometimes deadly illness. An annual flu shot is one of the best ways to protect people from flu and its complications and to reduce the spread of the virus.”
Lakey encouraged those at increased risk of severe flu complications to get their flu shot as early as possible. These groups include children ages 6 months through 4 years, people with chronic medical conditions, residents of long-term care facilities and pregnant women. Early immunizations also are encouraged for those 50 and older, for people who live with or care for those at increased risk of flu complications and for those who come in close contact with children younger than 6 months.
Flu season typically runs October through March, usually reaching its peak in Texas in January and February. People can get a flu shot anytime throughout the fall and winter. The shot takes about two weeks to become effective.
Flu symptoms include a sudden, often high fever; headache; extreme tiredness; dry cough; sore throat; runny or stuffy nose; and muscle aches. The illness is spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, releasing the contagious virus into the air. Complications of flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear and sinus infections, dehydration and worsening of chronic conditions such as congestive heart failure, asthma or diabetes.
Because flu viruses change, a new vaccine is produced each year. The viruses addressed by the 2007-2008 flu vaccine are: A/Solomon Islands (H1N1), A/Wisconsin (H3N2), B/Malaysia and similar strains. Flu shots do not contain live viruses and cannot cause the flu. A nasal-spray flu vaccine, which contains live, weakened flu viruses that do not cause the flu, is an option for healthy people ages 2 years to 49 years who are not pregnant. About 36,000 deaths are recorded in the United States each year from flu complications.
( News media: for more information contact Emily Palmer, DSHS Assistant Press Officer, 512-458-7400.)