Influenza or “flu” is a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory tract. The flu does not discriminate and can be a potentially serious and even deadly disease for anyone, regardless of age or health status. The good news is that the flu vaccine can help prevent the flu and lessen flu-like symptoms.

Flu Vaccination

Getting a flu vaccine every year is the best way to protect yourself and others from the flu, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone six months of age and older get vaccinated for the flu every year. High-risk individuals include:

  • Adults over 65
  • Pregnant women
  • People with chronic medical conditions
  • Health care workers
  • Individuals who live with and/or care for high-risk individuals

Even if you do not usually get a flu shot, this is the year to get one. Getting a flu shot will lower your risk of contracting flu and COVID-19 at the same time.

Where to Get Vaccinated

Flu shots are available at Shots for Tots/Big Shots clinics for children who are uninsured or Medicaid recipients and for uninsured adults. The flu vaccine costs $25 for adults, $10 for children, and is free for children with Medicaid. No one will be denied services if they are unable to pay. For an appointment, please call 512-972-5520.

For those who are insured, visit VaccineFinder.org to find a location with flu shots near you.

Additional Flu Prevention

In additional to getting an annual flu shot, you can keep yourself and your family healthy with these simple steps:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap is unavailable
  • Cough and sneeze into your elbow or tissue
  • Avoid touching your nose, mouth, and eyes
  • Avoid others who are sick
  • Stay home if you are sick
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects

Flu Symptoms

You may be contagious from one day before and up to seven days after becoming sick with the flu. Influenza may present the following symptoms:

  • Sudden onset
  • Fever or chills
  • Cough, sore throat
  • Runny or congested nose
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Severe fatigue

If you contact your doctor within 48 hours of symptom onset, you may be able to take an antiviral drug, which will reduce the severity of symptoms and length of the illness.

Seek immediate medical attention if a child has trouble breathing, has bluish skin color, is not waking up or interacting. Seek immediate medical attention if an adult has difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, sudden dizziness or confusion, is severely or persistently vomiting, or improves but then gets worse.


Flu vs. COVID-19

Adapted from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

Flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses but are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a new coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2) and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses.  

Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone, and testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis.

Similarities & Differences

Symptoms 

Common symptoms of both COVID-19 and flu include fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle pain, and/or headache. 

A COVID-19 symptom, different from flu symptoms, may include a loss of taste or smell. 

Onset 

For both COVID-19 and flu, one or more days can pass between a person becoming infected and experiencing symptoms. Both viruses can also spread for at least one day before individuals experience any symptoms. 

COVID-19 symptoms can take longer to appear than flu. For flu, symptoms typically appear one to four days after infection. For COVID-19, symptoms can appear two to fourteen days after infection. 

Spread 

Both COVID-19 and flu can spread from person to person between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet). Both are spread mainly by respiratory droplets when a person infected with either virus coughs, sneezes, or talks.  

Risk 

Both COVID-19 and flu can cause severe illness and complications. Those at highest risk include older adults, people with underlying medical conditions, and pregnant people. However, the risk of complications for healthy children is higher for flu compared to COVID-19. 

Vaccine & Treatment 

Flu has an annual vaccine available to prevent the illness. Currently there is no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. 

Flu also has an antiviral drug that can reduce the severity and length of illness if prescribed within 48 hours of symptom onset.

For additional COVID-19 information, visit www.AustinTexas.gov/COVID19.  


Austin-Travis County Influenza Surveillance

The official 2019-2020 flu season began on September 29, 2019. The information below contains data through March 14, 2020. Local flu surveillance reports for the 2020-2021 season will begin in October.

Detailed Weekly Report
  • Flu activity in Texas is considered widespread. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that confirmed flu activity continues to decrease.
  • Influenza A is the most common type of flu circulating in Travis County.
  • Five influenza-associated adult deaths have been reported in Travis County. Fifteen influenza-associated pediatric deaths have been reported in Texas; none have been reported in Travis County.
  • Three influenza-associated school outbreaks and five influenza-associated outbreaks at long-term care facilities have been reported so far this season in Travis County.
  • The CDC estimates that so far this season there have been at least 38 million flu illnesses, 390,000 hospitalizations and 23,000 deaths from flu in the United States.

Number Tested and Percent Positive PCR and Rapid Influenza Tests by Week, Travis County: 2019-2020 Influenza Season

Percentage of Visits Due to Influenza-like Illness Reported by Travis County Participants in ILINet: 2016-2020

Austin/Travis County influenza surveillance does not capture all cases of influenza or influenza-like illness. The reporting of seasonal influenza is voluntary. This data should be used for trending purposes over time and for identifying types/strains of influenza that are occurring in the Austin area rather than for estimating the total number of cases.


Additional Resources