Mayor Sylvester Turner and the Houston Health Department urge everyone 6 months of age and older to get a flu shot if they haven’t already, as influenza levels spike in Houston and across the nation.
The Health Department today received reports of the flu-related deaths of two Houston women in their 60s, one in late November and the other in late December. Flu season runs from fall to spring.
“It’s important to protect yourself and your family against the flu,” Mayor Turner said. “The best thing you can do is to get a flu shot since it offers the best protection.”
Nearly 13 percent of current emergency room visits in the Houston area are due to flu-like illnesses, according to Health Department monitoring of about 40 area hospitals.
The age group most affected in the Houston area is children under 4. They represent 42 percent of the ER visits due to flu-like illness, according to Health Department data.
Those at high risk for flu are young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, and those age 65 and older. Also, they are at greater risk of severe complications if they get the flu.
People can visit their doctor, pharmacy, local health department to get a flu shot. Many supermarkets also offer the flu shot.
The Health Department offers flu shots at its health centers to people in high risk groups on a sliding scale basis that ranges from free to $15. To find the nearest health center, call 832-393-5427 or the City of Houston’s 311 information line or go online to houstonhealth.org.
Besides getting a flu shot, other precautions people can take against the disease are:
- Washing hands frequently
- Covering coughs and sneezes
- Staying home if they are sick and until at least 24 hours after their fever is gone, except to get medical care.
People at high risk for the flu need to consult their doctor or an urgent care facility promptly if they get the flu. Doctors can prescribe antiviral medications that help make the illness shorter and milder. Medications work best if started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat and sometimes the lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness and at times can lead to death. Flu symptoms may include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches and fatigue.