If you haven’t had your seasonal flu shot, it’s time!  In the latest reports from the Texas Department of Health Services, there is an increase in flu-like illnesses and lab-confirmed cases in one-half of the state’s regions.  This means that the state’s influenza activity is classified as “widespread”.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) flu activity classifications range from none to sporadic, local, regional, and widespread.

Here is information from the CDC, effective this week:

  • There are 26 states with widespread influenza activity, which is very unusual at this time.
  • Almost all of the viruses so far have been identified as H1N1.
  • Visits to physicians for flu-like illnesses have increased nationally.
  • For the past six consecutive weeks, influenza-like illnesses are higher than expected during this time of year.
  • Hospital rates for influenza illnesses in adults and children are similar to or lower than seasonal flu rates, but are higher than expected for this time of year.
  • There have been 49 pediatric deaths from H1N1 flu reported to CDC since April 2009, including three this week.

Early results from clinical trials, which began in mid-August for children’s H1N1 vaccine have been excellent, especially for the age group 10-17.  Experts feel that only one dose will be required to protect children from this virus.

Two separate vaccinations are required, one for seasonal flu and the other for H1N1.  One will not protect you from the other.  If you haven’t gotten your shot yet, please do so.  The H1N1 vaccine should be ready by early to mid-October; however, there will be special groups that will receive theirs first: children, pregnant women, healthcare workers, and those who are more susceptible to infection.  It won’t be long, though, so get the seasonal flu shot, and as soon as the new vaccine is available, get it.

In the meantime, take the precautions that healthcare professionals have been advising all along: wash your hands often, keep hand sanitizer with you for when you can’t wash your hands, cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough, and stay away from crowds if possible.  If you become ill, don’t go to work or school.  It’s going to take individual awareness to overcome these viruses that are lurking.