Flu season is here and local health care professionals are urging Runnels County residents to get a flu shot. This year, the flu season has started a little early with several cases already reported at healthcare facilities in Ballinger.

Flu season is here and local health care professionals are urging Runnels County residents to get a flu shot. This year,  the flu season has started a little early with several cases already reported at healthcare facilities in Ballinger.

"We have already seen the flu in the community," said Dr. Bradly Bundrant Chief of Staff of Ballinger Memorial Hospital.  

On Thursday, September 29, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) along with other public health and medical groups kicked off the 2016-2017 flu vaccine campaign.

The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease.

In addition to getting a seasonal flu vaccine, you can take everyday preventive actions like staying away from sick people and washing your hands to reduce the spread of germs.

Bundrant said the vaccine is on hand at the Ballinger Memorial Hospital Clinic and he is urging at-risk patients to get the vaccine. He said the flu virus has presented earlier this year and so he is recommending that people get the vaccine now. 

"The earlier the better," Bundrant said. "Especially at-risk patients."  

The timing of flu is very unpredictable and can vary in different parts of the country and from season to season. Seasonal flu viruses can be detected year-round, however, seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue to occur as late as May. Flu activity most commonly peaks in the United States between December and March according to the CDC.

Getting an annual flu vaccine is the first and best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu. Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations. The more people who get vaccinated, the more people will be protected from flu, including older people, very young children, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions who are more vulnerable to serious flu complications.

Bundrant said that January is the peak month for the virus and that it can be active all the way until March. Flu shots last about three months and if a patient received one now, they could get another vaccine in January.

Bundrant said there is a supply of high potentcy vaccine available at the clinic for at-risk patients.

This year, the vaccine will only be administered through shots and not nasal sprays, which the CDC has deemed ineffective.

If you are sick with flu, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading flu to others. In addition, there are prescription medications called antiviral drugs that can be used to treat influenza illness.

If patients do contract the flu, Bundrant said it is best to get seek medical treatment in the first 24 hours that fever presents, so that the Tamiflu can be administered.

"The effectiveness (of Tamiflu)  falls off very quickly," Bundrant said.

The United States experiences epidemics of seasonal flu each year. This time of year is called "flu season." In the United States, flu viruses are most common during the fall and winter months. Influenza activity often begins to increase in October and November. Most of the time flu activity peaks between December and March and can last as late as May. CDC monitors certain key flu indicators (for example, outpatient visits of influenza-like illness (ILI), the results of laboratory testing and flu hospitalization and deaths). When these indicators rise and remain elevated for a number of consecutive weeks, flu season is said to have begun. Usually ILI increases first, followed by an increase in flu-associated hospitalizations, which is then followed by increases in flu-associated deaths.

For the most current influenza surveillance information, please see FluView at Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report.

ON THE NET:

www.texasflu.org

Information from the Centers for Disease Control was used for this report.