With flu season approaching, many local health officials said now is the best time for most people to get a flu shot.
Christus Trinity Mother Frances-Tyler and East Texas Medical Center already have started giving flu shots at their clinics.
The Northeast Texas Public Health District is offering the shot at its main offices, 815 N. Broadway, while UT Health Northeast officials said they plan to offer the vaccine soon.
Here are some answers from local health professionals to questions about how to prevent catching and spreading the flu, as well as information about the flu vaccination.
When should people get vaccinated?
"You never know exactly when the peak of flu infections is going to hit," said James Tyler, pharmacy operations manager at Christus Trinity Mother Frances-Tyler and PharmD. "For folks that get their shots in September and in the beginning of October, they can feel really comfortable when the winter months hit."
Why should people consider getting a flu shot?
"It's the most proven method to both preventing the flu, and if you get it, it is the best way to prevent the effects of that," Tyler said. "They reduce the risk of certain folks dying from flu infections."
At what age should people consider getting a flu shot?
"The CDC actually recommends the shot for everybody 6 months and older," Tyler said.
About how long does it take for the flu shot to kick in?
"It takes about two weeks for the protection to develop after the vaccination," said Abby Lovell, a certified family nurse practicioner and director of operations for East Texas Medical Center Urgent Care. "It usually does last throughout the flu season."
Can people get the vaccine through a nasal spray?
"One thing that is new in the 2016-2017 flu season is, before there was a nasal vaccine that was available. However, this year the nasal spray flu vaccine is not recommended. There were questions over its effectiveness, according to the CDC," Lovell said.
What are some of the signs of having the flu?
"Fever, chill, muscle aches, coughing, headaches," Lovell said. "It usually strikes suddenly and can last a couple of days."
Are there any populations that are especially susceptible to serious health risks if they were to catch the flu?
"The flu is most dangerous for the elderly and the very young," said Cynthia Baker, a registered nurse and facilitator of health services at Tyler ISD. "It's especially dangerous in children that are younger than 2."
What is the biggest thing people can do to lessen the amount of flu cases in the community?
"The more people that get the vaccine, the lower the whole incidence of flu in the whole community," Baker said. "We advise people who feel like they may have contracted the flu to stay at home."
In addition to keeping their children home from school if they suspect their child has the flu, what should parents do?
"If a student is running a fever and showing other symptoms of flu, I would say they needed to see a doctor," Baker said. "Getting treatment within the first 48 hours can lessen the severity of the flu."
Can the flu shot actually make you sick with the flu?
"The myth has gone around for a long time that the flu shot can give you the flu," said Gerry Brown, a certified physician assistant with University of Texas Health Northeast. "It's not an active virus that's being injected into you. It's an attenuated virus that allows your body to develop immunity to that particular strain."
Can you still get the flu even if you have gotten a flu shot?
"Sometimes what you're being immunized against is not necessarily the active flu that's in the area," Brown said. "So, consequently, you can get the injection and still develop the flu."
What are some of the biggest benefits of getting the flu shot?
"Getting the flu shot is paramount," Brown said "It has been known to save lives and to decrease the intensity of the flu in case you should catch it."
What else can you do to prevent flu and stay healthy this season?
In addition to getting the flu shot, health officials advise people to wash their hands and cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing.
Upcoming flu clinics:
East Texas Medical Center will hold a flu clinic from 8 a.m. to noon on Oct. 15 at ETMC First Physicians. The clinic will be open to ETMC patients.
More information on flu: