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The flu shouldn’t be a Christmas gift

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flu_medicalSince 2005, the week of Dec. 6 to 12 has been designated as National Influenza Vaccination Week; and, the Denton County Health Department (DCHD) is reminding residents that it’s not too late for a flu shot.

With the holidays approaching, family and friends are gathering for festivities and shopping for gifts; don’t bring the flu with you.

It takes about two weeks for the flu shot to be fully effective, so plan ahead and get a flu shot immediately.

“Early indications show this year’s vaccine to be a good match to the strains we have already seen circulating,” said DCHD Chief Epidemiologist Juan Rodriguez. “We know that receiving a flu vaccine is the best way to protect against the flu.”

According to the CDC, more than 200,000 American residents are hospitalized from flu complications each year.

Between 1976 and 2006, estimates of yearly flu-related deaths ranged from 3,000 during less severe seasons, to 49,000 people during the most severe seasons.

“Denton County is currently experiencing low flu activity, but it is likely to increase in the coming weeks,” said Rodriguez. “In recent years, we have experienced peak flu activity in late December. Therefore, it’s a good time to get vaccinated.”

DCHD recommends a three-pronged approach to fighting the flu:

  1. Get vaccinated. The best protection is to get an annual flu shot.
  1. Remember that antiviral medications are a second-line defense against the flu. Those experiencing fever, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, cough, muscle aches and headaches, should visit a doctor immediately. If antivirals are prescribed, they can help speed recovery and can prevent be hospitalized with flu complications.
  1. Take everyday preventive actions to help stop the spread of germs. Cover a cough and sneeze with your elbow– rather than your hands, stay away from sick people, stay home when feeling sick, and wash your hands often.

These steps will help prevent respiratory viruses, including influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and rhinovirus.

Vaccination is recommended for everyone six-months and older. It is especially important for protecting those at high risk for serious complications, including:

*         Young children

*         Adults over the age of 65

*         Pregnant women

*         People with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, cancer and morbid obesity

*         Native Americans and Alaskan Natives

*         People living with or caring for high risk individuals

DCHD Clinic locations are: in Denton, 535 S. Loop 288, Suite 1003, call 940-349-2900; in Lewisville, 190 N. Valley Pkwy., Suite 203, call 972-434-4700; or visit: www.dentoncounty.com/immunizations

DCHD clinics have free flu vaccines available for those who qualify.

Children are eligible for free flu vaccines if they are enrolled in Children’s Medicaid or CHIP, are uninsured, or have private insurance that does not cover the flu shot.

Adults are eligible for free flu vaccines if they are uninsured and low-income. All others will be charged $20 (cash only).

Be sure to bring: immunization record for children; cards for CHIP, Children’s Medicaid, Medicare, and/or private insurance; and, cash if applicable.

Visit www.texasflu.org for the latest information on flu in Texas, and www.flu.gov for details about symptoms, treatment, and prevention.

Updates are also available though Twitter by following @FluGov.

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