HOUSTON (KIAH) — Influenza Awareness Day is recognized in Texas on Sunday, Oct. 1. The Department of State Health Services is recommending eligible Texans to get a flu shot as soon as possible to protect themselves, their community and their families.

Your body will take two weeks to make flu antibodies after getting the vaccine, so getting a shot early is important. According to DSHS Commissioner Jennifer Shuford MD, “Seasonal influenza presents a real public health threat to Texans, and immunization remains our best defense against serious flu illness. Other actions can also help protect you and people close to you, like covering coughs and sneezes, washing your hands often, and staying home from work or school when you are sick.”

DSHS recommends that people six months and older get the flu shot by the end of October to reduce the risk especially for adults and children at risk with conditions such as heart and lung disease, diabetes and asthma. Getting vaccinated can decrease the amount of flu-related deaths and hospitalizations. Eligible Texans can safely get both the flu vaccine and the new COVID-19 vaccine at the same time.

The flu can spread through tiny drops made when people infected with the flu talk, sneeze or cough. The infection can spread when an infected person touches others or other objects and surfaces and then touches their mouth, nose and eyes.

Symptoms include fever, headache, body aches, sore throat, cough, fatigue and chills. To learn more about how you can reduce the spread of the flu, visit dshs.texas.gov/influenza-flu or contact your doctor. You can find vaccine appointments near you here.

Roughly 36,000 Americans die each year from flu-related illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, making it the seventh-leading cause of death in the U.S.

For more information about influenza and how to protect against flu illness, visit dshs.texas.gov/influenza-flu. You can also contact your doctor, local health department or pharmacy to learn where you can get your flu shot or use the vaccine finder at Vaccines.gov to locate where flu shots are available.