State health department offering vaccines as flu season begins

Inoculations set for Monday, then Nov. 3-5

From Staff Reports

Oct. 26, 2008 - Texas Department of Health and Human Services is tackling flu season by encouraging everyone 6 months and older to get an influenza vaccination this year.

The flu season started this month and continues through May in Texas, generally peaking in January and February in Texas. Consequently, the sooner people can get the vaccine the better, TDSHS officials note.

Those planning for children to get flu shots will need to move quickly, as they require two doses at least four weeks apart.

Each year, 200,000 people across the country are hospitalized because of influenza, and an estimated 36,000 people -- including about 100 children -- die from flu complications.

"Don't wait for cold weather to get your flu shot," said Dr. David Lakey, state health commissioner, in a prepared release. "A flu shot before the holiday travel season begins is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family from flu and its complications and to reduce the spread of the virus."

Children ages 6 months to 18 years, adults 50 and older, people with chronic medical conditions, residents of long-term care facilities and pregnant women are especially encouraged to get the shot as they run the risk of having more serious flu complications. TDSHS also recommends that those who take care of people in high-risk groups, as well as individuals who are regularly in close contact with children younger than 6 months, get the annual flu vaccine.

Due to the constantly changing flu virus, a new vaccine addresses three strains of flu: A/Brisbane/59/2007 (H1N1), A/Bribane/10/2007 (H3N2) and B/Florida/4/2006. The shots don't contain live viruses and thus cannot cause the flu, according to TDSHS.

Also available in limited quantities is a nasal-spray vaccine containing live weakened viruses which also shouldn't cause the flue. This is only an option for healthy people ages 2 years to 49 years who are not pregnant.

The state health agency has scheduled four upcoming dates when flu shots will be available at the local office, located at 1400 College St., Suite 167. They will offer the shots from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. this Monday, Oct. 27, and again on Monday-Wednesday, Nov. 3-5, providing they do not run out of the vaccine.

A donation of $10 per individual or $20 per family is being asked by TDSHS to help offset the cost of administering the vaccine, but no one will be turned down due to inability to pay. Those on Medicare or Medicaid are asked to bring their cards, and will not be required to pay. A limited amount of FluMist for ages 2-18 will also be available.

For more information about flu shots, contact the local TDSHS office at 903-885-6573, or call your health care provider.

Those seeking more information on where flu shots are being administered in the community can call the 2-1-1 public information line.

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