Health Officials Warn About Early Flu Season

By Eric King
|  Tuesday, Oct 29, 2013  |  Updated 4:31 PM CDT
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Doctors across North Texas aren't taking any chances after Los Angeles issued a health warning after the city received its first flu patient.

Eric King, NBC 5 News

Doctors across North Texas aren't taking any chances after Los Angeles issued a health warning after the city received its first flu patient.

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Tarrant County health leaders are teaming up with Walgreens to urge the public to safeguard families against the seasonal influenza with a flu shot.

Tarrant County Public Health says the flu is a contagious disease, caused by the influenza virus, which can be spread by coughing, sneezing, or nasal secretions.

Health officials recommend everyone six months of age and older should get a flu vaccination.

Vaccination is important for people at risk of severe influenza, including children under two years of age, persons over 65 years old, pregnant women and persons with chronic conditions. Close contacts of children younger than six months should also be vaccinated, since younger infants cannot receive the vaccine.

Each year, up to 220,000 people are hospitalized and an average 24,000 patients die nationwide as a result of influenza, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Last year's flu season was moderately severe, a higher percentage of outpatient visits for flu-like illness, higher hospitalization rates and more reported deaths attributed to the flu compared with recent years, according to the CDC.

NBC 5's sister station in Los Angeles reports earlier than usual flu cases, including one case that was severe enough for the patient to get hospitalized.

Laboratory reports identify the hospitalized patient's strain as Influenza A H1N1, which is covered by this year's vaccine along with two or three other common strains.

After getting a flu shot, it can take up to two weeks to develop an immune response, so health officials urged vaccination as early in the flu season as possible.

Early symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, headache and muscleache, though it can affect each person differently, Fielding said.

Vaccination is particularly important for those at greater risk or those caring for others at risk of developing complications, which includes:

  • pregnant women
  • children younger than 5 years old
  • adults 50 years old or older
  • anyone whose immune system is compromised due to disease or medication
  • anyone with a chronic medical condition such as heart disease, diabetes or who is overweight or obese
  • people who work or live in nursing homes or long-term facilities
  • health care and day care workers
  • Low-cost flu vaccines are available at many pharmacies and supermarkets

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