HOUSTON – The Houston Health Department encourages everyone ages six months and older to protect themselves, their family and community from the flu by getting a flu shot before the end of October.
Flu outbreaks can occur as early as October and last as late as May.
“It may seem early but let me assure everyone that now is the ideal time to get a flu shot,” said Dr. David Persse, local health authority for the Houston Health Department. “Although we can’t predict exactly when the inevitable spike in Houston cases will occur, we know it will indeed occur. That’s why everyone should take the important step of getting a flu shot now.”
People can visit their doctor, neighborhood pharmacy or local health department to get a flu shot. Many grocery stores also offer the vaccine.
The Houston Health Department offers flu shots at its health centers to uninsured and underinsured people on a sliding scale that ranges from free to $15. To find the nearest health center, people can call 832-393-5427 or the City of Houston 311 Help and Info line. Health center locations and hours of operation are also available at HoustonHealth.org.
In addition to vaccination, people can help stop the spread of the flu and other illness by:
- Washing hands frequently
- Covering coughs and sneezes
- Staying home if sick and at least 24 hours after their fever is gone, except to get medical care
People at high risk for flu are young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, and those age 65 and older. They also are at greater risk of severe complications if they get the flu.
The flu – caused by different related viruses – is a contagious disease that results in symptoms such as fever, headache, fatigue, cough, nasal congestion, sore throat and body aches. People with a combination of these symptoms need to see a medical provider promptly.
UPDATE: It’s also important to consider getting the flu shot as there has been a major outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in China, which has been described as very flu-like. The flu vaccine will not stop you from contracting coronavirus but it will help your immune system keep as healthy as possible. The symptoms for flu and coronavirus are similar so if you have any coughs, sniffles or temperature, you will need to self isolate and have a covid19 rapid test conducted as soon as possible. If you have recently travelled to any part of the world, especially via plane, you should self isolate for 14 days. High-risk categories are similar to the flu categories, so pregnant women, the elderly and anyone with underlying health issues should avoid unnecessary outings and stay indoors when possible.
Most people recover in one to two weeks, but some develop complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis and sinus and ear infections. Flu also can make chronic medical conditions worse.
Doctors can prescribe antiviral medications that help make the illness shorter and milder. Antiviral medications work best if started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.
The Houston Health Department publishes a weekly Influenza Surveillance Report on its website during flu season. The report offers insight into local, state and national flu prevalence.