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Flu takes its toll in Crossroads

By Elena Watts
Dec. 31, 2013 at 6:31 a.m.


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More than 30 cases of influenza were confirmed each day at three different Twin Fountains Walk-In Clinics between Friday and Sunday, said Dr. John McNeill, owner of the clinics.

"We've sent half a dozen to the hospital with associated pneumonia," McNeill said. "Most have been over 65."

The majority of those with confirmed cases of the flu have not been vaccinated, McNeill said. The two vaccines - trivalent and quadrivalent - contain the H1N1 swine flu variant, which is predominate so far this season, he said.

"Seeing this number of patients is taxing for health care providers - doctor's offices, walk-in clinics and hospitals," McNeill said. "You might have to wait, but we never turn anyone away."

Tamiflu, which ranges in price from $130 to $170, mildly reduces flu symptoms and shortens the duration of the virus by one day if caught within 24 hours, said Dr. Taylor Starkey with Texas Health Center. Tamiflu stops the virus from multiplying.

"We have to decide when it's worth it to prescribe Tamiflu because it's expensive," Starkey said. "It's a waste of money after 24 hours."

Antibiotics do not benefit patients with the flu, which is a viral infection, Starkey said. They only help with bacterial infections.

One way to tell if it is the flu is to check the color of phlegm.

"The phlegm is clear with the flu," Starkey said. "If the phlegm is yellow or green, it's not the flu, or it could be a secondary infection."

Starkey estimated that his clinic sees 30 to 40 cases of flu per day, but he cannot be certain.

"I don't swab the patients if they've been sick for a couple of days because I don't want to waste their money," Starkey said.

Ten states, including Texas, reported widespread geographic influenza activity during the week beginning Dec. 15, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is up from four states the prior week.

From November through December, the CDC has received reports of severe respiratory illness among young and middle-aged adults, many of whom were infected with the H1N1 virus.

Multiple H1N1-associated hospitalizations, including many that required intensive care unit admission, and some fatalities have also been reported, according to the CDC.

The H1N1 virus emerged in 2009 and caused more illness in children and young adults than older adults, though severe illness was seen in all age groups.

"I haven't seen this many cases since the swine flu pandemic in 2009," McNeill said. "It's not too late to get the flu shot."

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