Flu season began last month and continues through March. If you haven't received your flu shot, here's why you should do so as soon as possible.
The latest figures from the state health department indicate flu season's off to a quiet start across Texas. Dr. Carolee Estelle says a simple act of prevention could help keep it that way.
"The CDC’s recommending that everyone who is 6 months old or older get vaccinated this year, and actually, annually," said Estelle, the associate chief of infection prevention at Parkland Hospital System and assistant professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
"Infants and the elderly and those with chronic medical conditions and immune systems that don’t work as well – those are the people most at risk for complications from influenza like needing to be hospitalized, requiring intensive care unit stays, even death," she continued.
While Estelle says it's never too late to get vaccinated, it takes the body two weeks after the shot to begin producing antibodies that help ward off the flu. So, the earlier you get the shot, the better — for you and for the rest of the community.
Why get the shot when it doesn’t guarantee against getting the flu: There are a couple of reasons that can happen. The vaccine isn’t 100 percent protection. But also there are different kinds of influenza as well. When someone gets a vaccination, and they get the influenza afterwards, they may have gotten the infection, but it protects you from getting those complications. It decreases those risks quite a lot.
What this year’s flu vaccine covers: You can get the trivalent vaccination, which covers two types of influenza A (the H1N1 virus and the H3N2 virus) as well as influenza B. There’s also the quadrivalent vaccine, which has the two influenza As, and it actually does two influenza Bs. The CDC does not recommend any one of these vaccines over the other.
When you should get a flu shot: Flu season runs October through March. The goal is to get vaccinated before the flu virus gets spreading in the community. It takes two weeks for your body to start producing those antibodies that protect you from the virus. You can, of course, continue to get the vaccine throughout the entire season. It’s never too late.
Interview responses have been lightly edited for clarity.