With Fall in full swing and the holiday season right around the corner, now is the time to take the necessary steps to protect yourself and your family from becoming ill during the 2018-2019 flu season. Influenza, or flu, is a contagious respiratory illness affecting the nose, throat and lungs caused by the influenza virus. Symptoms of the flu virus usually occur within one to four days of contraction and include fever/chills, body aches, cough, sore throat, running nose and extreme fatigue. The flu virus is highly infectious and most commonly spread by human to human contact; most adults with the flu are contagious beginning one day before symptoms appear and an additional five to seven days after becoming sick. For this reason, it is important to take certain precautions to avoid getting the flu.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), getting the annual flu shot is the best way to protect yourself and your family from getting the virus. It is recommended that individuals ages six months and older should receive a flu vaccination at the start of flu season. Flu season commonly begins in October and can continue to occur into the late spring months, though it is possible to contract the seasonal flu virus at any point during the year. In Texas, flu season generally peaks in January and February, although cases of the flu are often reported in the early Fall months. It takes approximately two weeks following a vaccination for the antibodies that protect against the virus to develop, which is why it is recommended to get the flu shot before the height of flu season. While it is still possible to get the flu after being vaccinated, the symptoms, recovery time and risk of complications are significantly reduced as compared to individuals who get the flu without a vaccination.

In addition to getting vaccinated, there are several other important precautions to take in order to prevent getting or spreading the flu. These include washing your hands regularly, avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth and avoiding contact with those who are sick. For those with the flu, it is important to stay home in order to avoid spreading the virus and reduce recovery time.

Most people who get the flu will recover in less than two weeks, but for some, the flu has the potential to lead to hospitalizations or the worsening of preexisting medical conditions. For those individuals with a high risk of developing complications from the virus, the flu vaccination is especially important. Individuals at a high risk of developing flu-related complications may include those over the age of 65, women who are pregnant or those with certain chronic medical conditions such as asthma or heart disease. To learn more about the different risk factors for flu-related complications, please visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Flu vaccinations are available through primary care physicians, local pharmacies and regional public health clinics. In our area, the City of Corpus Christi Health District is another place you can get the flu vaccine. The City of Corpus Christi Health District is currently administering flu vaccines at its Horne Road Clinic, located at 1702 Horne Road on a walk in basis from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. every Monday-Friday. To schedule a time to receive a vaccination, please call 361-826-7238. The cost of each vaccination is $20 (cash, credit card, debit card, or check accepted for payment).

In addition, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has partnered with Walgreens Pharmacy to provide flu vaccinations for all veterans enrolled in the VA healthcare system at no cost. Veterans seeking to take advantage of this service can receive a vaccination at any Walgreens location by providing the pharmacist with a Veterans Identification Card and photo ID. To learn more about this program, please visit the Department of Veterans Affairs.

If you would like to review more about the legislature, please visit the Texas Legislature Online. If you have questions regarding any of the information mentioned in this week’s article, please do not hesitate to call my Capitol or District Office. As always, my offices are available at any time to assist with questions, concerns or comments (Capitol Office, 512-463-0672; District Office; 361-949-4603).

– State Representative Todd Hunter, District 32

Rep. Hunter represents Nueces County (Part). He can be contacted at todd.hunter@house.texas.gov or at 512-463-0672.