2009-09-10 / Front Page

Get Seasonal Flu Shot Now and Prepare for Swine Flu

The Texas Department of State Health Services is encouraging people to get their seasonal flu vaccination now and prepare to get vaccinated for the H1N1 "Swine Flu" when the vaccine becomes available."Don't wait. Get your seasonal flu vaccination now," said Dr. David Lakey, DSHS Commissioner. "It's one of the best ways to protect yourself and others from seasonal flu."

Some HEB Grocery store locations with full service Pharmacys have begun giving seasonal flu shots as is the Little River Healthcare facility in Rockdale. Keep reading the

Leader for updates on locations for flu shots.

Seasonal flu vaccine, available in shot and nasal spray forms, is recommended for people ages 6 months and older. The shot takes about two weeks to become effective. A separate 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine is not expected until mid-October.

"Get the seasonal flu vaccine now. Then, be prepared get the 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine later. One vaccine isn't a substitute for the other," Lakey said.

People at high risk of having serious flu complications are especially encouraged to get their seasonal flu shot as soon as possible. This includes children ages 6 months through 18 years, those 50 and older, people with chronic medical conditions, residents of long-term care facilities and pregnant women. People who have close contact with those at high risk also should get vaccinated.

People wanting the seasonal flu vaccine should call their health care provider, local public health department, 2-1-1 or check online at www.211Texas.org for availability.

Lakey also urged people to follow standard illness-prevention steps: Wash hands frequently with soap and water or alcoholbased hand sanitizer; Cover coughs and sneezes; Stay home if sick.

Ten things you need to know:

1. No swine flu from barbecue. You cannot catch swine flu from pork - or poultry. Swine flu is not spread by handling meat, whether it is raw or cooked.

2. No need to panic. Swine flu isn't much more threatening than the regular seasonal flu. Experts report that hospitalizations and deaths from the H1N1 flu seem to be lower than the average seen for the seasonal flu.

3. The virus is tougher on some. Swine is tougher on some groups - children under 2, pregnant women, people with health problems like asthma, diabetes and heart disease.

4. Wash your hands often and long. Like the seasonal flu, swine flu spreads through the coughs and sneezes of people who are sick. Cough into your elbow or shoulder or into a tissue; then wash your hands.

5. Get the kids vaccinated. Vaccinate children between the ages of 6 and 24. Teens and young adults are more vulnerable to swine flu. Ordinarily, seasonal flu hits older people the hardest.

6. Get your shots early. Millions of swine flu shots should be available by October. However, experts recommend getting the regular seasonal flu shot now.

7. Immunity takes a while. Even those first in line for shots won't have immunity until around Thanksgiving. It takes two shots, given three weeks apart, to provide protection and it takes a couple of weeks after the last inoculation for the vaccine to take full effect.

8. Vaccines are being tested. Health officials say the swine flu vaccine is safe and effective, but they continue to test it to make sure.

9. Be extra cautious. If an outbreak of swine flu hits your area before you're vaccinated, stay away from public gathering places like malls and sports events and try to keep your distance from people in general. Keep washing your hands!

10. What if you get sick? Call your doctor right away. If you develop breathing problems, pain in your chest, constant vomiting or a fever that keeps rising, go to an emergency room. Stay home and rest and don't return to your normal routine until your fever has broken for at least 24 hours. Drink plenty of fluids.

For more information about flu in Texas, visit DSHS' www.TexasFlu.org.

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