SAN ANTONIO - Surveillance of influenza activity by the Metropolitan Health District revealed flu cases have been increasing over the past few weeks, as they are in the rest of the state.
Rita Espinoza, Metro Health chief of epidemiology, said the rise is not as high as it has been in previous years. She also said up until now, no pediatric flu deaths have been reported, and none have been reported statewide during the 2016 flu season.
“That is a good sign, but we’re just starting the peak, so it’s possible that still could happen,” Espinoza said.
Espinoza said the number of pediatric deaths are a way of monitoring how severe a strain is out there. She said Metro Health is urging people to get their flu shots, which are available at doctors' offices, many pharmacies and even some retail locations.
She said insurance providers also have information on where the vaccine is available.
Metro Health also offers flu shots for all ages, starting at six months, at its immunization clinics.
Espinoza said the very young and seniors are the most vulnerable to the flu and its complications. She said it’s also important for pregnant women to be vaccinated against the flu.
“If the mom is vaccinated, then that immunity is passed to the child,” Espinoza said. “When the baby is born, it has some protection until they can get vaccinated at six months of age.”
Espinoza said many people refuse to get their flu shots.
“Some people feel that they don’t need it. Some people feel they get sick from the vaccine, which is not true. That’s a myth,” Espinoza said.
Espinoza said if people do come down with the flu after getting the vaccine, which takes two weeks to become effective, the shot can lessen its severity. She said the best advice is simple, starting with getting the flu shot.
She recommends frequent hand washing, trying to avoid people who are sick and covering coughs to keep from spreading germs.
Espinoza said if you have the flu and you have children, everyone should stay home. She said the flu is most contagious when someone is running a fever.
Children who catch the flu should stay out of school “until they’re fever-free for 24 hours without the need for medication.”
Espinoza said she suggests going to the State Department of Health Services flu website for more information.
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