Upon starting my first term in the Texas Legislature, one of my initial undertakings was to successfully pass legislation that brought greater awareness to families about the need to vaccinate against the influenza virus, especially for children. This is a topic that I would come back to later in my service as well by officially designating Oct. 1 as Influenza Awareness Day. My interest in this issue came from witnessing the unthinkable when a close friend lost his young daughter to flu-related complications that seemingly came out of nowhere.
Safeguarding against the influenza virus is a legitimate matter of public health that we as a society must take seriously. I know that many of us have an image of spending a couple of days grounded in bed and then bouncing right back on our feet if we were to contract the flu. However, tragic stories like the death of my friend’s daughter occur much more frequently than many would expect. Already more than 100 children have lost their lives to the flu in 2014, 20 of those deaths occurring in Texas alone. Unexpected and unpredictable pandemics such as the swine flu of 2009-2010 can lead to the deaths of over 300 children in a single year.
Every year it is expected that over 20,000 children under the age of five are going to be hospitalized with flu related complications. The best way we can combat this problem and protect our families is to make sure that ourselves and the ones we love are vaccinated. Getting a flu vaccine reduces a child’s risk of flu-related intensive care hospitalization by 74 percent, according to a CDC study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases. That is why in Texas we celebrate Oct. 1 as Influenza Awareness Day and take other proactive steps to educate families about the importance of being vaccinated.
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. Please find time to have you and your family vaccinated this flu season. Several pharmacies offer the flu vaccination and. on Saturday. Oct. 25, you can get a free flu shot from 9 a.m. until noon at the Lewisville High School Cafeteria.
I encourage you to take advantage of outreach efforts like those being hosted at Lewisville High School. 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 urge 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]