As local flu activity increases, the Houston Health Department (HHD) encourages people to get a flu shot if they haven’t gotten one this flu season.
Monitoring of influenza activity at 42 area hospitals by HHD indicates that between 1,300 and 1,600 people with flu-like illnesses are showing up at local emergency rooms every week.
“Flu activity will increase over the next several weeks so it’s not too late to get a flu shot,” said Dr. David Persse, Houston’s local health authority and EMS director.
Flu activity typically peaks sometime between December and February but can last as late as May. People can visit their doctor, neighborhood pharmacy or local health department to get a flu shot. Many grocery stores also offer the vaccine.
HHD offers flu shots at its health centers to uninsured and underinsured people on a sliding scale basis that ranges from free to $15. To find the nearest health center, people can call 832-393-5427 or the City of Houston’s 311 information line. They can also go online to HoustonHealth.org.
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.
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.
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 until at least 24 hours after their fever is gone, except to get medical care.