For most of my life, I never fully understood the true risks of catching the influenza virus. While I understood that the flu could be severe for those with certain health conditions, I never imagined that it could have a serious effect on individuals who were previously healthy.
Several years ago though, I learned the hard truth that my original thoughts on the flu were far from accurate. Not long before I took office, the daughter of one of my dear friends died from flu related complications. Family and friends were left in shock and despair at the sudden loss of this beautiful little girl’s life, and my heart broke as I watched my friend’s world turn upside down as he said his final goodbye to his daughter who had been the perfect picture of health only a few days before.
Unfortunately, tragic stories like the death of my friend’s daughter occur much more frequently than many would expect. It is estimated that roughly 100 children die in an average flu season, and pandemics such as the swine flu of 2009-2010 can lead to the death of over 300 children. During last year’s flu season alone, Texas lost 18 children to the influenza virus.
In order to raise awareness about just how severe of an illness the influenza virus can be, I authored successful legislation this past session designating Oct. 1 as Influenza Awareness Day. With strong support from the House, and Senator Jane Nelson’s leadership in the Senate, the bill passed unanimously, and was signed into law on June 14 by Governor Perry.
Although the flu virus cannot be 100 percent prevented, I believe it is vitally important to raise awareness of the health risks associated with the virus, and to encourage Texans to take proactive measures to reduce exposure to these risks.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, getting an annual flu vaccine is the best way to reduce the chances that you will get the seasonal flu. While there are other methods for preventing the flu, such as frequent hand washing and avoiding those already sick with the virus, the vaccine is by far the single best way to prevent it. Sadly, it is estimated that 90 percent of children who die from the flu have not been vaccinated.
It is my hope that by raising awareness about this silent killer, we can prevent the pain and heartbreak that so many families have felt from losing a family member to the influenza virus.
This year’s flu vaccine is now available, and I encourage everyone 6 months and older to go and get the vaccine as soon as possible. For more information about the virus and where to go to get a flu vaccine, you can visit www.texasflu.org.
As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Texas House of Representatives and I welcome your feedback on this and any other critical state issues. If you would like to share a thought with me, please feel free to contact me at my Capitol office at 512.463.0688 or by e-mail at [email protected]