Ready or not – area in the midst of flu season
By Elsa Maxey
Flu season is ramping up and reports from health officials indicate that H1N1, formerly called the swine flu, has arrived in Fort Bend County. No longer considered pandemic but part of the flu season, the swine flu reference of H1N1 was due to a virus similar to those found in pigs. But it probably won’t be called that much longer.
Texas is among six states with increasing H1N1 flu activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control. There are several reported deaths in the state believed to have influenza complications being linked to the swine flu – a man testing positive for H1N1 with an illness that began as bacterial pneumonia, a Houston teen’s death from the flu and three other adult deaths in Harris County, three in Dallas, five in Beaumont, one in Austin, and three in Longview related to flu with others possibly yet to be reported from other parts of the state.
Health officials advise those who are presently sick to see their doctor if they suspect they have the flu so they can be treated, especially if they are in a high risk group with respiratory conditions such as asthma.
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) further recommends everyone six months and older be vaccinated, and should speak to a health care provider about the best type of flu vaccine for them. A nasal spray version is available for healthy persons 2 to 49 years who are not pregnant, and a high-dose vaccine is approved for people 65 and older, according to DSHS. This year’s flu vaccine reportedly includes protection against the most common flu strains, including H1N1.
Influenza typically peaks in January and February and a flu shot is reported to still be the best way to avoid the flu. But take note, it takes about two weeks after the vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against the influenza virus infection. Although a flu shot is one of the best ways to stop the spread of the flu, it can also be done by covering coughs and sneezes, washing one’s hands frequently with soap and water or a hand sanitizer, and staying home if you’re sick.
For more information on influenza and the importance of getting vaccinated, area residents are asked to call Fort Bend County Department of Health and Human Services, 281- 342-6414.
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