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EDINBURG—Hidalgo County health officials say this year’s flu season is off to an early and active start. Each year, approximately 30,000 people die due to influenza illness. The Hidalgo County Health and Human Services Chief Administrative Officer Eddie Olivarez says Hidalgo County has not had a fatality due to influenza in the last year, however, county officials are encouraging all residents to be proactive against the virus and recommend influenza vaccination.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu season usually peaks in February, however, this year many states, including Texas, are reporting widespread flu activity. Since October, the Health and Human Services Department has seen an increase in influenza-like illness, or ILI, cases in Hidalgo County, particularly in elementary schools.

Olivarez says elementary schools are usually the first indication to the health department of the flu season’s arrival.

“With the strong wave of flu this year, including several flu-related deaths across the country, we must be prepared to combat the illness and protect ourselves and our families with the flu vaccine,” said County Judge Ramon Garcia, who was given his flu shot by the Health Department last week. 

“It is easy, it is affordable, it is accessible, and it is necessary.”

Getting vaccinated is the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease.  The Health Department offers the vaccine for $15 at each of the county health clinics; clients with certain insurance carriers may receive the vaccine at no cost.  

Visit www.hchd.org for clinic listings and contact information.  Residents may also choose to obtain the vaccine at other locations, including physician offices, drug stores, and pharmacies. 

The Health Department has some helpful tips to keep residents from spreading the illness to others.  They say the best way to stay healthy is to follow the 3 C’s: cover, clean and contain. Residents are urged to cover their mouth when they sneeze or cough in order to avoid spreading germs. You should also clean your hands frequently with soap and water. And finally, if you have flu like systems you should contain the infection by staying home from work or school; influenza illness requires 4-5 days of bed rest, with a physician’s approval.

Symptoms of influenza include high fever (between 100°-104°), body aches and listlessness. Children and the elderly are the most vulnerable to the virus.

If you feel you have the flu, you are encouraged to contact your physician immediately and schedule an appointment. The flu vaccine is available at the health department; you can also receive the shot at your physician’s office or your local pharmacy. 

For more information on the influenza illness or the vaccine, call the Health and Human Services Department at 383-6221.

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