Thursday, October 1, 2020

Fight the Flu. Get Your Flu Shot.

Influenza affects millions of people each year, and because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many physicians and health experts are concerned that this year’s flu season will hit with full force. In the Lone Star State, it’s important for Texans to be proactive about their health by getting the yearly flu vaccination. One of the worst things that could happen would be having many people sick with the flu while many are ill with coronavirus.

Flu vaccination is the best way to reduce the risk of getting and spreading the flu. This year, it also will help keep hospitalizations down as physicians, nurses, and other medical staff continue to care for COVID-19 patients. Traditionally, Texas falls behind on flu vaccination. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 43.3% of Texas adults got a flu shot in 2018-2019, compared to the national average of 45.3%.

Although influenza viruses circulate throughout the year, flu season usually starts in the fall and winter, and peaks between December and February.

Like COVID-19, the flu is contagious. Both have some similar symptoms, including fever, chills, cough, fatigue, body aches, vomiting, and diarrhea. People with the flu may not experience symptoms until one to four days after catching the virus. The CDC outlines key similarities and differences between influenza and COVID-19 here.

While most people recover from the flu, many can experience complications, especially older adults, people with pre-existing medical conditions, young children, and pregnant women. If left untreated, infected patients can develop pneumonia, inflammation of the heart, brain, or muscle tissues, organ failure, sepsis, or they could even die. In Texas, more than 21,000 people died from the flu in the past two years. To put that into perspective, that is the population of Katy!

Everyone 6 months or older is encouraged to get the flu vaccine each year – especially adults aged 65 and older, pregnant women, young children, and people who have chronic illnesses such as diabetes, asthma, and heart disease. The CDC is urging the public to get the flu vaccine while maintaining social distancing, wearing a mask in public, and practicing good hygiene.

People who receive the flu shot may experience some mild side effects like aches and a mild fever, but they can’t get the flu from the shot. Those who get the flu after being vaccinated might have been exposed to the virus beforehand. The flu vaccination can help lessen flu symptoms and severity, helping reduce the amount of time spent away from work and school.

In a time when community health is front and center, getting a flu shot is more important than ever. The Texas Medical Association’s Be Wise Immunize℠ program recently created a downloadable poster below in English and Spanish with key takeaways about the flu vaccination. You can print the poster, or save it and share it on social media. 

Be Wise – Immunize is funded in 2020 by the TMA Foundation, thanks to major support from H-E-B and Permian Basin Youth Chavarim.

Be Wise – Immunize is a service mark of the Texas Medical Association. 

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