DON’T GET SICK: Here’s why you should really get that flu shot this year

Get your influenza shot, experts say; Texas seeing an early spike of flu cases this year.


Cases of Texans exhibiting flu symptoms are about 67 percent higher than they were this time last year.

Doctors: The best way to increase your chances of staying influenza-free this year is to get your flu shot.

Flu season is on the rise in Texas earlier than usual, and amid reports that two people died from the flu last month in Travis County, health officials are making the case that getting the flu shot this winter is particularly worthwhile.

At this point in the flu season last year, Texas doctors had reported about 10,300 instances in which patients were exhibiting flu-like symptoms, according to reports sent to the Texas Department of State Health Services. This year, that number is higher than 14,700.

That spike is reflected in some parts of Central Texas as well, according to officials in Travis, Williamson and Hays counties. In Travis County, two people died last month after experiencing complications from the flu, according to county health officials. They declined to release the victims’ exact ages, but said they were both over 50.

Seeing a high number of cases early in the season “is always going to concern us because it means it’s a severe season. It’s going to last longer and more people are going to get sick,” said Dr. Ross Tobleman, who works in the emergency department of Baylor Scott & White Medical Center in Round Rock.

Speaking to the American-Statesman on Thursday, Tobleman said he had already seen 10 patients that day who had come to the emergency room with flu-like symptoms. Baylor Scott & White lab officials have reported that more people have been tested so far this flu season than the total number of people who took the flu test all last winter, Tobleman said.

Eric Schneider, an epidemiologist with the Hays County Local Health Department, said his area also is seeing a spike. Cases documented by the health department are only a fraction of the total number of sick people in the county, but experts say they suggest an increase from last year. In December 2016, Schneider’s department received about 15 reports of people testing positive for flu; this year, they’ve had 110 so far.

Travis County also is seeing an increase in influenza reports this flu season compared with last year, officials said.

State health officials said reasons for the uptick are hard to pin down, but there’s no reason for alarm.

“Every flu season looks a little bit different every year,” said Dr. Jennifer Shuford, infectious disease medical officer for the Texas Department of State Health Services. “There’s no predicting it, and there’s no way we can tell exactly when it’s going to peak.”

The influenza virus usually hits its victims quickly and suddenly, and symptoms usually include fever, chills, coughing, a sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, and body aches.

“The flu’s going to last five to seven days, then it’ll take a good three to four days to recover after that,” Tobleman said.

Tobleman and Schneider stressed that it’s not too late to get the flu shot, which is recommended for anyone at least 6 months old. Most CVS and Walgreens pharmacies offer the vaccine.

“The average person will get the flu and spend three to four days in bed with a fever, chills and aches and then get better,” Schneider said. “But it’s children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems that are at risk of hospitalization and death.”

Schneider said that getting the flu vaccine doesn’t guarantee you won’t get sick, but it reduces the likelihood that you will.

“The flu shot is not 100 percent effective, but even if you do get sick, it helps your body fight it off easier,” he said.

Schneider and Tobleman both said they often have to fight back the common misconception that the flu shot can give you the flu. Flu shot recipients cannot get the flu from the vaccine, they said.

Getting a full night’s rest on a regular basis is also a good way to ensure your immune system is strong and can protect you from the flu, Tobleman said.

“The more fatigued you are, the more rundown your immune system is,” he said.

People who do get the flu this year can do their part to prevent further outbreaks by staying home from work or school while they’re sick, officials said.

“It takes a community effort to prevent a flu outbreak,” Schneider said.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

Dump truck driver fled after North Austin crash that severely injured man, police say
Dump truck driver fled after North Austin crash that severely injured man, police say

A dump truck driver fled after he was involved in a crash on Interstate 35 that was reported early Monday, Austin police said. The driver, 30-year-old Elieser Samora, is charged with failure to stop and render aid after an accident involving serious bodily injury. A 28-year-old man had severe brain damage after the crash and is currently in critical...
Abbott asks disgraced congressman to foot bill for special election
Abbott asks disgraced congressman to foot bill for special election

Gov. Greg Abbott wants Blake Farenthold to foot the bill for a special election the governor has called to replace the disgraced former congressman. Abbott on Wednesday sent a letter to Farenthold, a Corpus Christi Republican who resigned from Congress in early April amid sexual harassment claims, demanding that he cover all costs for the upcoming...
Police: Former Adidas employee stole $2,600 from Round Rock store
Police: Former Adidas employee stole $2,600 from Round Rock store

A former employee of an Adidas shoe store at the Round Rock outlet mall has been accused of stealing $2,600 from the store, an arrest affidavit said. Frank Rodriguez III, of San Marcos, was charged with theft, a state jail felony punishable by up to two years in jail. An Adidas regional loss prevention manager told police he found $2,600 missing from...
Man seriously injured after crashing into tree at Burleson Road, Metropolis Drive
Man seriously injured after crashing into tree at Burleson Road, Metropolis Drive

A man has potentially life-threatening injuries after he crashed into a tree at Burleson Road and Metropolis Drive on Wednesday evening, Austin-Travis County EMS officials said. Medics responded at 6:27 p.m. The man, estimated to be in his 20s, was taken to St. David’s South Austin Medical Center. 
Austin man charged with online solicitation of a minor
Austin man charged with online solicitation of a minor

An Austin man sent nude pictures of himself to a police officer posing as a 15-year-old girl online, an arrest affidavit released this week said. Charles Cantu, 25, was charged with online solicitation of a minor, a third-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in jail. A Georgetown police officer posted an ad on Craigslist posing as a 15-year-old...
More Stories