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October, November, Best Time for Flu Shot

It's that time again. Experts say an ample supply of flu shots are expected this year, and October and November are the best times to get the shots. When 67-year-old Johnny Terlino heard that flu shots had arrived, he quickly came to get one.

"Whenever I get the flu, I really get down, and I'm too old to be going through that anymore," Terlino said Thursday after getting his shot at the Dallas County Health and Human Services adult immunization clinic near downtown.

They take about two weeks to become effective.

"Anyone who wants just to decrease their risk of getting the flu should get the flu shot," said Dr. Doug Hardy, assistant professor of internal medicine, pediatrics and infectious diseases at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas.

Flu season runs from October through March, with the height of the season usually in January and February in Texas, said Emily Palmer, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of State Health Services. People can get the shots at locations ranging from their doctor's offices to pharmacies to local health departments.

Experts say manufacturers often send orders in installments to providers, so even if a location runs out of the shot one day, they will probably have shots available soon as more shipments come in.

For instance, Dallas County Health and Human Services ran out of the shots at midday Wednesday, but by Thursday had acquired 400 shots, said spokeswoman Jacqueline Bell. She said that supply was expected to last through Friday and was hopeful they would get more before they ran out again.

Since starting Sept. 27, the Dallas County facility has averaged about 250 shots a day.

The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District is beginning its flu shot campaign this weekend by offering vaccinations at two health fairs, said spokesman Joe Callahan. On Monday, the district will begin offering shots at its network of clinics.

"There are ample supplies. We don't expect any problems," Callahan said.

Experts encourage those at high risk of complications from the flu to get vaccinated. Such groups include children ages 6 months to 5 years; pregnant women; people 50 and older; those with certain chronic medical conditions; and nursing homes residents.

Also, those who live with or care for those at high risk, including health care workers and caregivers, should be vaccinated, experts say.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman Curtis Allen said 110 to 115 million doses will be distributed nationwide this flu season, the most ever.

Each year, about 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu, Curtis said. About 36,000 people die each year from flu, and 200,000 are hospitalized, Curtis said.

The symptoms that make flu sufferers miserable include fever, headache, fatigue, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and muscle aches.

Hardy said that it's important to remember that an adult can spread the flu one day before symptoms appear and five days after becoming sick.

"Unlike the cold, which can be sort of annoying, the flu can be very serious," Palmer said. "It's not to be taken lightly. It makes you feel terrible and it takes a long time to recover from it, to get your full strength back."