The Houston Health Department encourages everyone ages 6 months and older to protect themselves, their family and community by getting a flu shot now.

Flu outbreaks can occur as early as October and last as late as May.

The protection offered by flu shots is more important than ever, not just for Houstonians but also for our local health care systems,” said Dr. David Persse, chief medical officer for the City of Houston. “COVID-19 has stressed area hospitals for weeks. When people receive their flu shots, they will protect themselves and at the same time reduce the demand that our already burden hospitals are likely to face from the upcoming rise in patients with flu-related complications during the flu season.”

The health department on Monday began offering flu shots at its health centers to uninsured and underinsured people on a sliding scale that ranges from free to $15.

To find the nearest health center and set a flu shot appointment, people can call 832-393-5427. Health center locations and hours of operation are also available at www.HoustonHealth.org or through the City of Houston’s 311 Help and Info line.

People can visit their doctor, neighborhood pharmacy or local health department to get a flu shot. Many grocery stores also offer the vaccine.

People can receive flu and COVID-19 vaccines at the same time — in different arms — during a visit to their medical provider.

This season all flu vaccines are quadrivalent, meaning they protect against four different flu viruses.

Quadrivalent vaccines have a safety profile comparable to seasonal flu vaccines made to protect against three viruses, with similar — mostly mild — side effects.

In addition to vaccination, people can help stop the spread of the flu and other illness by:

washing hands frequently; covering coughs and sneezes; and staying home if sick and at least 24 hours after their fever is gone, except to get medical care.

People at high risk for flu are young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease and people age 65 and older. They also are at greater risk of severe complications if they get the flu.

The flu — caused by different related viruses — is a contagious disease that results in symptoms such as fever, headache, fatigue, cough, nasal congestion, sore throat and body aches. People with a combination of these symptoms need to see a medical provider promptly.

Most people recover in one to two weeks, but some develop complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis and sinus and ear infections. Flu also can make chronic medical conditions worse.

Doctors can prescribe antiviral medications that help make the illness shorter and milder. Antiviral medications work best if started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.

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