If there was ever a time to get vaccinated for the flu, the time is now. Health officials are reporting that the flu is on the rise across the nation, and hitting the hardest in Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas. Nueces County is no exception.

Heath officials state that the number of flu cases reported in Nueces County have doubled. From Sept. 2-28 of 2013, 595 flu-related illnesses were reported; during the same time in 2012, 292 cases were reported. In comparison, the number of flu-like illnesses reported during that same time period in 2012 was 552; by Sept. 28 of 2013, 724 flu-like illnesses were reported.

"What is hitting hard is this particular variant of the flu (influenza A (H1N1) pdm09 (pH1N1)). Typically in this season and any flu season, the people most susceptible are those under the age of 6 and those over 60. Mainly because of an underdeveloped and suppressed immune systems, respectively," Dr. Xavier Gonzales, Postdoctoral Research Associate and Professor of Cell Biology at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. "However, with the above mentioned variant, that is causing the majority of the cases right now, it is more common in children and young adults."

Another strain causing many of the flu cases reported as of right now is Type A, which causes the influenza virus of the epidemic type, according to Dr. William W. Burgin, M.D., Health Authority for Corpus Christi and Nueces County.

"Right now, we can definitely say that the influenza virus has doubled. It is extremely important to get vaccinated," said Dr. Burin. "The CDC is reporting that the current effectiveness of the vaccination against influenza is at 63-percent."

It is also reported that flu-related deaths are also on the rise in Texas. Hidalgo County reports that there have been six deaths from the swine flu since Thanksgiving. In a normal year, according to Dr. Burgin, the influenza virus kills between 20,000-30,000 people across the nation.

"That number is expected to rise this year, but we just don't know how much." said. Dr. Burgin. "We have our feelers out; we are watching."

Again, health officials are urging residents to get vaccinated as soon as possible, to prevent the flu - especially with younger adults.

"What happens is that young adults are less likely to get vaccinated as compared to older adults. Thereby compounding their susceptibility to getting the flu." Dr. Gonzales said. "So the resounding point is that everyone should get vaccinated to prevent and/or limit the affects of the flu."

The Corpus Christi-Nueces County Public Health District offers vaccines at multiple locations, including the Horne Road Clinic. Walk-Ins are welcome Mondays, 8 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.; 1 p.m. - 6:30 p.m; Tuesdays-Fridays are by appointment only.

Flu vaccines are also available at the Robstown Clinic, located at 710 E. Main St. every other Monday, 1:30 to 7 p.m.

Remember, the flu is a highly contagious virus that is easily spread by aerial transmission from droplets of saliva that we disperse into the air when we talk, sneeze or cough, according to Dr. Gonzales.

"So people need to get vaccinated, wash there hands frequently, avoid touching face and mouth. And as an extra point, the Flu is a virus not a bacteria. Antibiotics kill bacteria not viruses," Dr. Gonzales said. "People should not be taking antibiotics without consulting their physicians, and they really should not be taking them in an attempt to kill the virus - because it will not."