Austin-Travis County EMS recommends that everybody 6 months and older get a flu shot. Getting the flu shot is especially important if you have a condition that puts you at high risk for complications from influenza.
Every year, the World Health Organization, along with other organizations, makes recommendations for which flu shots should be given. Because there are many strains of the flu, decisions on what type to distribute must be made. They decide which strain to vaccinate for based on the virus’ trends, which types are already spreading, and which is projected to be most common.
You can also choose to get a nasal spray instead of the tradition flu shot. ATCEMS recommends that healthy children 2 years through 8 years old get this nasal spray. However, if they spray is unavailable, it is always better to get the shot rather than delay the vaccination.
Flu shots are already available at many locations around the Austin area (which means the sooner you go get the flu shot, the better!) Try not to put it off like one of your every day errands. It takes two weeks for a flu shot to be fully effective, so make sure to account for that when deciding when to go. Flu season can last until February and can often begin as early as October.
There are many places that offer flu shots outside of a typical doctor’s office. Many walk-in clinics and drug and grocery store chains offer flu shots to the general public. Go here for a map of flu shot locations near you.
The most obvious reason to get a flu shot is that it prevents you from getting the flu! It seems almost silly to say it that way, but why risk getting sick if you can protect yourself? Of course, like we’ve already explained, the flu shot does not guarantee 100% that you will not get the flu this season--there are simply too many different strains and the virus is constantly changing. It would be impossible to be completely protected. Even if you do get the flu, getting a flu shot can make your illness milder. This is why it is imperative that younger children and older adults get their shot every year. It can greatly reduce the possibility of a more serious complication from the flu arising.
Flu shots cause antibodies to develop in the body. Simply put, when a vaccine enters your body, your immune system sees it as an intruder. To fight that “foreign” intruder your body creates antibodies to defend itself. Now, the next time you get that strain of the virus, your body remembers it and will quickly be able to fight it off.
Q: Can the flu shot give me the flu?
A: No! The virus that is in a shot is already weakened and it cannot give you the actual flu. If you still get the flu, it is most likely a different strain. You can, however, get some side effects that include soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given, fever (low grade), and aches.
Q: Is there anyone who should not get a flu shot?
A: Children under 6 month old and anyone who has an allergy to the shot should not get vaccinated. If you are not feeling well at the time of your flu shot, you may want to ask your doctor beforehand.
Q: Which groups of people are at increased risk of getting the flu?
A: Certain people have a higher chance of getting the flu or experiencing complications as a result of the virus. These people include:
People who are at high risk of developing serious complications (like pneumonia) if they get sick with the flu.
People who have certain medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease.
People younger than 5 years (and especially those younger than 2), and people 65 years and older.
People who live with or care for others who are at high risk of developing serious complications (see list above).
Household contacts and caregivers of people with certain medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease.
Household contacts and caregivers of infants younger than 6 months old.
Health care personnel.
If I already had the flu, do I still need to get my flu shot?
A: Yes! You could have had a different strain. You should always get your shot regardless. Better safe than sorry, right?
Q: Do I really need to get the flu shot every year?
A: Because the flu changes so rapidly and because antibodies in our immune system decrease over time, it is extremely important that you get a flu shot every year.
How flu spreads—contagiousness
Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or possibly their nose. You may also be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick.
West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne illness. Up to 80% of people infected with West Nile virus will have no symptoms. However, some infections can result in serious illness or death.
People over 50 years of age and those with weakened immune systems are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill if they become infected with the virus.
Your best defense is to practice these four habits:
Use an approved insect repellent every time you go outside. Approved repellents are those that contain DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Follow the instructions on the label.
Regularly drain standing water, including water that collects in empty cans, tires, buckets, clogged rain gutters and saucers under potted plants. Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water.
Wear long sleeves and pants at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
Use air conditioning or make sure there are screens on all doors and windows to keep mosquitoes from entering the home.
West Nile FAQs
What are the symptoms?
Most people infected with West Nile virus will not have any signs of illness. Twenty percent of people who become infected will have mild symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, and occasionally a skin rash on the trunk of the body and swollen lymph glands.
The symptoms of severe infection (West Nile neuroinvasive disease) include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, and paralysis. Only about one out of 150 people infected with West Nile virus will develop this more severe form of the disease.
The incubation period of West Nile virus in humans is 3-14 days. Symptoms of mild disease may last a few days. Symptoms of severe disease may last several weeks, although neurological effects may be permanent. On rare occasions, death can occur.
How is it spread?
West Nile virus is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito and can infect people, horses, many types of birds, and some other animals. There is no evidence that West Nile virus can be spread from person to person or from animal to person.
How is West Nile virus treated?
There is no specific treatment for West Nile virus infection. In severe cases, intensive supportive therapies are indicated, such as intravenous fluids and medicine to control fever or pain. Antibiotics may be given for any secondary bacterial infection.
Can I be vaccinated for West Nile virus?
Currently there is no vaccine for West Nile virus, but several companies are working toward developing a vaccine.
Is this a seasonal virus?
Cases of West Nile neuroinvasive disease usually occur in the late summer or early fall. However, Texas has a variety of climates; when temperatures are mild, West Nile virus can be transmitted year round. It is best to try to protect yourself all year.