AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – With cold and flu season beginning and COVID-19 still spreading in Texas, the Texas Department of State Health Services says now is a perfect time to get a flu shot.

DSHS encourages everyone to protect themselves, their families and their communities against respiratory illness throughout the flu season by getting immunized as soon as possible.

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While the flu shot won’t prevent COVID-19, it will slow the circulation of flu in Texas and keep people out of the hospital, conserving medical resources needed to care for COVID-19 patients.

“We want as few people as possible to get sick this fall and winter,” said Dr. John Hellerstedt, DSHS commissioner. “That protects our health care professionals and health care system, which is key to defeating both COVID-19 and the flu. In addition, the same precautions Texans are already taking against COVID-19 – wearing masks, physical distancing and hand hygiene – will help slow the spread of influenza.”

Getting a flu shot is especially important for people at a higher risk for complications if they do get the flu, including those with chronic health conditions, pregnant women, young children and older adults, DSHS said in a news release.

People who provide care to members of those groups should get a flu shot to protect themselves and to prevent spreading the flu to vulnerable people they care for in their families and communities.

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Influenza is caused by a number of related viruses. Symptoms usually start suddenly and include fever, body aches, chills, a dry cough, sore throat, runny nose, headaches and extreme fatigue and can last a week or longer.

DSHS encourages people to seek treatment promptly if they are experiencing flu symptoms. Antiviral drugs may help shorten the duration or lessen the severity of the flu if started within 48 hours of when symptoms begin.

Almost all types of flu vaccine available in the United States this flu season will protect against four strains of the flu virus: two strains of influenza A and two of influenza B. People can contact their health care provider, local health department or local pharmacy to find out where flu shots are available.

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Earlier this month, Governor Greg Abbott urged all Texans to get a flu shot this season.