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Influenza vaccine available as flu season starts

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As flu season begins, local doctor’s offices, clinics and pharmacies are receiving the flu vaccine. Wednesday is Texas Influenza Awareness Day and the traditional start of flu season when the Texas Department of State Health Services advises everyone ages six months and older to get a vaccination.

If you fall within a high-risk group such as people age 65 and older, pregnant women, young children and those with chronic health conditions, officials say you could be at a higher risk for serious complications from influenza. During the 2013-2014 flu season, 20 children in Texas died as a result of influenza.

The vaccination is required every year as researchers create new vaccines after determining which flu viruses are most likely to spread, according to a news release.

“There are more options than ever to help protect you against the flu,” said DSHS Commissioner Dr. David Lakey. “Whether you choose a standard shot that protects against three or four strains of the flu, the intradermal shot with a smaller needle, the nasal spray version, or a high-dose vaccine that can boost immunity for people 65 and older, the most important thing is that everyone 6 months old and older get vaccinated.”

All flu vaccines for the current season will protect against such strains as A/California/7/2009 (H1N1), A/Texas/50/2012 (H3N2) and B/Massachusetts/2/2012, according to the state health services department.  For the second year, some vaccines also include protection against a fourth strain, B/Brisbane/60/2008, according to the release. About half of the 150 million vaccinations will include the four-strain varieties.

Officials also suggest residents take extra steps to stop the spread of flu by covering coughs and sneezes, frequently washing hands, disinfecting common areas and staying home while sick.

Contact your health care provider, local health department or dial 2-1-1 to find out where to get a flu shot. Flu information and tips for protecting against the flu are available at www.texasflu.org.

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