News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Health Segment: Flu Preparation


By Sam Baker, KERA Morning Edition Host

Dallas, TX –

A new flu season begins next Monday. Tarrant County Public Health is offering flu shots at its public health centers - and enouraging people to get their shots now. Dr. Sandra Parker is Medical Director and Health Authority for Tarrant County Public Health. She says that area had a mild flu season last time, but in today's health segment, she told KERA's Sam Baker that flu is nothing to take lightly.

Dr. Parker: Flu is an illness caused by a virus similar to the common cold, but the difference is it's a different virus. But some of the symptoms may be the same: You may have a cough, you may have a fever, a little bit of runny nose, a fever - all of those influenza-like symptoms.

Sam: Does it require a doctor's visit to determine if it's a cold or flu, or can just diagnose yourself?

Dr. Parker: Sometimes with influenza, people have body aches, and those body aches can be quite uncomfortable, so they go to the doctor for that. Flu can be diagnosed in a doctor's office whereas the common cold can not. It's more a diagnosis of exclusion: It doesn't look like anything else you may have, it may be the flu test is negative, so they would say you have the common cold.

Sam: How dangerous can the flu be?

Dr. Parker: Flu can be fatal. There are a number of people who die from influenza every year. Even one is too many because influenza can be prevented.

Sam: Best prevention is what, I guess, the vaccine?

Dr. Parker: The best prevention is the vaccine, but there are also a number of other measures we can do individually: Cover our coughs and sneezes. Wash our hands frequently. When we're sick, stay at home. We don't want to pass anything to friends or co-workers or others that we come in contact with.

Sam: But the flu season goes from October to May, so...

Dr. Parker: This is the time to get the flu shot. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommends that you begin getting your flu shot as soon as it becomes available in the community.

Sam: What strains does it cover?

Dr. Parker: In a typical influenza vaccine, it covers three strains: Influenza B, and the other most common strains that have been found in the community. Last year, that was Influenza AH1. And then, the Influenza H3. And those were the most common last year and we expect those to be the most common this year. Now I don't want anyone to think just because the got the flu shot last year doesn't mean they don't need to get it this year. They do. Studies show that our immunity decreases over time. And so make sure everyone has full protection this year, they do need to get that shot this year.

Sam: A needle doesn't bother me, but for some people, they'd rather meet any other fate than to come in contact with them, so are there any alternatives?

Dr. Parker: There are alternatives for that, but some of these alternatives are available for special age groups. If you are under the age of 50, and you have no other health conditions, you can get a nasal preparation for the flu. It's a weakened virus that you squirt into your nose. There's also another preparation that's new this year called the intradermal preparation and it is applied just beneath the skin.

Sam: Who's more susceptible to flu?

Dr. Parker: Ones that have chronic illnesses, especially respiratory illnesses. So, those with asthma, those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD, those with emphysema, those who have weakened immune systems for a number of reasons, and also some of those people who have heart conditions. Those are ones we especially encourage to be vaccinated against flu. But flu vaccination is for everyone. The CDC recommends that most people over the age of six months old be vaccinated against the flu yearly.

Sam: Is there any reason to think there'll come a time when we won't have to deal with the flu?

Dr. Parker: No, there isn't. We will deal with flu every year about this time. I don't see a permanent cure for flu in sight.

Dr. Sandra Parker is the Medical Director and health Authority with Tarrant County Public Health.

Tarrant County Public Health is offering flu shots at these locations:

Arlington Public Health Center 817-548-3990

Bagsby-Williams Public Health Center 817-531-6738

La Gran Plaza Mall Public Health Center 817-920-5752

Northeast Public Health Center 817-285-4155

Northwest Public Health Center 817-238-4441

Southwest Public Health Center 817-370-4530

Watauga Public Health Center 817-514-5030

The shots cost $20 per person and must be paid in cash. Medicaid and Medicare Part B will be accepted. Secure Horizons will not be accepted.

For more information about flu: