Health Watch -- It's Flu Shot Time

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

October is the time for colorful leaves, football, Halloween - and flu shots.

If you want to avoid coming down with the flu this year, especially during the holiday season, now is the time to do something about it. Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say peak flu season generally runs from mid-December through March. It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to offer full protection. That makes October through mid-November the best time to get a flu shot so you'll have full protection throughout flu season.

You need to get a shot this year even if you had one last year. The common strains of influenza vary from year to year, so the vaccine also varies. A flu shot won't necessarily offer full protection - flu strains may be slightly different from what's expected - but having the shot greatly decreases your chances of catching the flu and may mean you have a less severe case if you do come down with the flu.

Dr. James Luby, a UT Southwestern infectious diseases expert, says it's especially important for the elderly and those who have weakened immune systems to be vaccinated for the flu. The flu may mean a few days of misery for healthy people, but it can cause serious illness or even death for the elderly and those with conditions like lung disease, heart disease or a weak immune system. Flu shots are also important for children with asthma.

Some public health officials are asking that healthy people wait until late in October to get their flu shot so that those at highest risk can be vaccinated first.


Sept. 2004

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