Denton County Health Department
December 8, 2014
Holiday Celebrations are Here; Don’t Bring the Flu with You!
DENTON COUNTY, TX … December 7-13 marks National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW), and the Denton County Health Department (DCHD) is reminding residents that it’s not too late for a flu shot. In fact, early data from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that this flu season could be severe. With the holidays upon us, family and friends are gathering for festivities; don’t bring the flu with you to these parties and dinners. It takes about two weeks for the flu shot to be fully effective, so plan ahead and get your flu shot immediately.
Recent findings from the CDC indicate that about half of the H3N2 viruses analyzed are drift variants: viruses that have mutated to make them slightly different than what is covered in the vaccine. While the vaccine’s ability to protect against those viruses may be reduced, residents should immediately get a flu shot if they haven’t already done so. This is because the vaccine can still provide protection against other flu strains that may be more common later in the season. Additionally, the vaccine can lessen the effects of the flu for those who test positive for the drifted H3N2 strain; their case may be milder than those who were not vaccinated.
“Influenza can be a very serious disease that can lead to hospitalization or death,” DCHD Director Matt Richardson says. “It’s important to remember that anyone can get sick from the flu.”
According to the CDC, more than 200,000 United States residents are hospitalized from flu complications each year. Over a period of 30 years, between 1976 and 2006, estimates of yearly flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people during the most severe season. So far this year, seasonal influenza A H3N2 viruses have been the most common. These types of seasons often have more severe illnesses, leading to more hospitalizations and deaths.
DCHD recommends a three-pronged approach to fighting the flu:
1. Get a flu vaccine; despite drifts or mutations in circulating viruses, vaccination remains the most effective way to prevent the flu. Even when varying strains are circulating, the vaccine can reduce illnesses, doctors’ visits, missed school or work, and prevent flu-related hospitalizations and deaths.
2. Remember that antiviral medications are a second-line defense against the flu. If you are experiencing fever, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, cough, muscle aches and headaches, visit your doctor immediately, and take antivirals if prescribed; they can help you recover quicker, and can prevent you from being hospitalized with flu complications.
3. Take everyday preventive actions to help stop the spread of germs; cover your cough and sneeze, stay away from sick people, stay home when you feel sick, and wash your hands often. These steps will help prevent respiratory viruses, including influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), rhinovirus, and enterovirus D68.
“Denton County is currently experiencing moderate flu activity, and is likely to increase in the weeks ahead,” says Juan Rodriguez, DCHD Chief Epidemiologist. “Receiving a flu vaccine continues to be the best way to protect yourself against the flu.”
Vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months and older. It is especially important for protecting those at high risk for serious complications, including:
• Young children
• Adults over the age of 65
• Pregnant women
• People with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, cancer, and morbid obesity
• American Indians and Alaskan Natives
• People living with or caring for high risk individuals
Residents can search flushot.healthmap.org to find flu shots offered in their neighborhood. DCHD clinics have free flu vaccines available for those who qualify, including uninsured children and adults (details are listed below). Vaccines for all age groups are available, including quadrivalent and high dose varieties.
NIVW was established in 2005 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to highlight the importance of continuing flu vaccination throughout the entire flu season.
Visit www.texasflu.org for the latest information on flu in Texas, and www.flu.gov for details about symptoms, treatment, and prevention. You can also get updates though Twitter by following @FluGov.
DCHD Clinic Locations:
Denton: 535 S. Loop 288, Suite 1003
Lewisville: 190 N. Valley Pkwy., Suite 203
Children are eligible for free flu vaccines if they are enrolled in Children’s Medicaid or CHIP, are uninsured, or have private insurance that does not cover the flu shot. Adults are eligible for free flu vaccines if they are uninsured and low-income. All others will be charged $20 (cash only).
What to Bring:
• Immunization record for children
• Cards for CHIP, Children’s Medicaid, Medicare, and/or private insurance
• Cash if applicable
DCHD Media Contact: Sarah McKinney