Bulletin Staff Report

The first step toward preventing a bout with influenza is getting a dose of vaccine at the start of the season, and now is an ideal time to do that, Alicia Long, administrator of the Brownwood-Brown County Health Department, said Friday.

“We have plenty of vaccine, and we even have the mist available too,” Long said. However, the mist is not recommended for everyone, including those over age 49. The traditional shots are available for others.

To make getting the protection more available to the public, rhe Brownwood-Brown County Health Department will hold its annual flu clinic at the Depot Civic and Cultural Center from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday and Tuesday.

“This location worked out well for us last year, so we’re going to do it again,” Long said. “Several home health care agencies, doctors’ office and other locations are also providing the vaccine.”

Flu seasons are unpredictable, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While flu epidemics occur annually, the beginning, severity and length of each epidemic depends on several factors, including the different types and strains of influenza viruses circulating and whether the viruses in the vaccine match flu viruses that are circulating.

CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against the disease. While there are many different flu viruses, the flu vaccine is designed to protect against the three main flu strains that research indicates will cause the most illness during the flu season. The vaccine offer protection from getting sick from these three viruses or it can make an illness milder if exposed to a different flu virus.

Flu activity typically does not reach its peak in the U.S. until January or February, according to the CDC. Getting the flu vaccine soon after it becomes available each year is recommended because the protection will last throughout the flu season. However, flu activity can occur as late as May so getting a vaccine later in the season, including in December, January or even later, and even if flu activity has already started in your area, can still offer protection in most years.

In addition, everyday preventive steps like frequent hand washing to decrease chances of getting the flu are recommended by the CDC.