Many Houstonians live with chronic health issues or medical conditions that compromise their immune system. This makes them more susceptible to flu viruses and for developing dangerous complications. That is why the Houston Department of Health and Human Services (HDHHS) has made people with health issues and their care givers, a high priority for receiving seasonal flu vaccines.
This Fall, protection from the H1N1 virus will be included in the seasonal flu vaccine, so most individuals will be able to return to the tradition of receiving one vaccine for the year.There are two forms of the vaccine: nasal spray and injection. The injectable vaccine is most often prescribed for people in high-risk health groups, but consult your health care providers to determine which vaccine is best for you. Click here for HDHHS vaccine locations.
In addition to receiving a vaccine, the following precautions are important to preventing the flu:
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose and mouth
- Cover coughs and sneezes
- Avoid contact with people that may be sick or have cared for an ill loved one
It is vital that people with health issues contact their doctor immediately if they begin to develop flu symptoms, since beginning antiviral medications early can be important to preventing their illness from becoming life-threatening
The following health issues place people especially at-risk for complications from flu viruses.
Additional health issue information.
Because people with asthma, and other lung disease, have weakened immune systems, they are at risk for developing severe complications from influenza. People with asthma are urged to get the flu vaccine, as they are considered a high risk priority group for flu infections.
The American Lung Association of the Central States, which includes Houston, Texas, advises people with asthma to continue taking their normal medications (unless otherwise instructed by their physician) and to keep their health care provider’s contact information with them at all times, so that should symptoms begin to develop, they can be reached immediately for possible use of anti-flu medications.
More information on asthma and the flu.
Infections of any kind are a concern for cancer patients because certain treatments, like chemotherapy, can weaken their immune system and make it difficult for their bodies to fight off infection. The American Cancer Society has helpful information for people with cancer to follow in order to protect themselves from flu viruses. Click here.
In addition to the seasonal flu vaccines, people with cancer should receive a pneumococcal vaccination and ask their health care provider if a second pneumococcal vaccination is necessary.
More information on cancer and the flu.
Like other people with underlying health concerns, people with heart disease and cardiovascular disease should receive the flu vaccine.
Preventing secondary infections, such as pneumonia, is also very important to heart disease patients who experience flu viruses. Talk to your health care provider about receiving the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV) in addition to vaccines to prevent flu viruses.
More information on cardiovascular disease and the flu.
Diabetics are six times more likely to be hospitalized with complications from flu viruses. Deaths among people with diabetes increase 5-15% during flu epidemics. So, in addition to receiving vaccines to protect against flu viruses and pneumonia, people with diabetes should also have members of their household immunized to prevent exposure.
Should a person with diabetes become sick with the flu, it is especially important for them to continue taking their medication (pills or insulin) since illness itself can raise blood glucose. If illness prevents a diabetic from eating properly, that too will affect blood glucose levels.
Click here for an important list of what to do if a person with diabetes becomes ill with the flu and critical symptoms to watch for.
At this time there is no information to indicate that adults with HIV/AIDS are any more at risk for catching flu viruses than the general public. However, should they become ill with the flu, HIV-infected adults and adolescents, especially those with low CD4 cell counts or AIDS, are at risk for experiencing more severe complications. For that reason, the injectable flu vaccine is recommended.
In addition to flu prevention tips listed at the top of this page, click here for more information on flu and HIV/AIDS.
Generally, adults ages 65 and older are not considered to be at high-risk for contracting the H1N1 flu virus. However, the seasonal flu is especially dangerous, even deadly, for older adults. In fact, each year, 90% of flu-related deaths and more than half of flu-related hospitalizations occur in people ages 65 and older. Therefore, it is highly recommended that seniors receive their annual seasonal flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available.
Seniors who develop flu symptoms should see their physician as soon as possible. To limit the risk of complications from the flu, they are prioritized for treatment with antiviral medications. For seniors with health conditions, such as diabetes and others described on this page, antiviral medications are particularly important to preventing secondary infections. Visit the Seniors page to learn more.
More information on the flu for seniors from U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.