Recently I had a health scare that landed me in the Hospital here in Amarillo. Upon my admission, one of the first questions was whether I had received a flu vaccination. I said that I had not. For my Doctor, that was a concern, especially since the hospital I was in had widespread flu patients. So, it was pretty imperative for me to get the vaccine, right that minute.

Influenza is a contagious disease that spreads around the United States every year, usually between October and May. Nearly all 254 counties in Texas are seeing a spike in reported flu cases in the last few weeks.

Flu is caused by influenza viruses, and is spread mainly by coughing, sneezing and close contact. Anyone can get the flu. Flu strikes suddenly and can last many days. Symptoms vary by age but can include:

fever/chills

sore throat

muscle aches

fatigue

cough

headache

congestion

Flu can also lead to pneumonia and blood infections, and can cause diarrhea and seizures in children. If you have a medical condition, such as heart or lung disease flu can make it even worse.

Each year thousands of people in the United States die from flu, and many more are hospitalized.

The flu vaccine can:

keep you from getting the flu,

make flu less severe if you do get it, and keep you from spreading the flu to your family and other people.

There is no live flu virus in flu shots.

They cannot cause the flu.

There are many flu viruses and they are always changing. Each year a new flu vaccine is made to protect against three or four viruses that are likely to cause the disease in the upcoming flu season.

Some people should not get the flu vaccine. Tell the person who is giving you the vaccine:

If you have any severe, life-threatening allergies.

If you have ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction after a dose of flu vaccine, or have severe allergy to any part of this vaccine, you may be advised not to get vaccinated. Most, but not all types of flu vaccine contain a small amount of egg protein.

If you have ever had Guillain-Barr Syndrome as GBS. Some people with a history of GBS should not get this vaccine.

If you are not feeling well. It is okay to get the flu vaccine when you have a mild illness, but might be asked to come back when you feel better.

How can you learn more?

Ask your healthcare provider. He or she can give you the vaccine package insert or suggest other sources of information.

Call the Amarillo or Texas State Health Department.

Contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at 1-800-232-4636 (1-800-CDC-INFO)

Visit the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/flu