AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Public Health says it is expecting a “severe wave of flu illnesses” if people do not get vaccinated this year, according to a Tuesday release. It said the number of flu cases has surpassed the count this time last year.

“While flu activity is already high, it typically won’t peak until January or February, and significant activity can occur as late as May,” the release said. “People who get the flu vaccine and still get sick can expect a milder illness – and a lower risk of pneumonia, hospitalization or death.”

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, the 2019-2020 inluenza season began Sept. 29. One child has died in Texas because of the flu so far this year. They lived in the Rio Grande region. Austin International School canceled classes in November because of the high number of flu-related absences.

Flu cases are not required to be reported, and so the data only includes those that were reported to public health. Each week Texas DSHS releases a flu report and compared to the previous week, this week there is an increase in influenza level and it is widespread across the state.

Flu symptoms include fever or chills, a cough, sore throat, runny or congested nose, muscle aches, a headache or severe fatigue. People may be contagious from one day before they show signs of the flu and up to a week afterward.

Where to get a flu shot

People who have insurance can go to to find the nearest location to get a flu shot.

Austin Public Health has an immunization program for uninsured children and adults and provides about 45,000 vaccinations each year. People can call the appointment line at 512-972-5520 to get one.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends anyone older than 6 months get a flu shot every year.

Other steps to keep from getting sick

Austin Public Health shared these common tips to prevent or at least stop the spread of illness:

  • Wash your hands often and don’t touch your face
  • Cough and sneeze into a bent elbow
  • Do not go to work or school if you have symptoms of flu
  • Get treated within the first 48 hours of symptom onset
  • Ask your medical provider for treatment for people in your household who have also been exposed to the virus and may be at increased risk to contract influenza