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Flu invades the Crossroads (video)

By BY KELDY ORTIZ - KORTIZ@VICAD.COM
Jan. 23, 2013 at 11 p.m.
Updated Jan. 23, 2013 at 7:24 p.m.


PREVENTIVE MEASURES

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends three ways to prevent getting the flu.

• Take time and get the flu vaccine. The CDC recommends getting a flu shot once a year.

• Take everyday preventive actions to stop spreading germs, such as covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing.

• If you do get the flu, take antibiotic drugs to shorten the time you are sick.

Timothy Ripple waited as the nurse practitioner returned with test results for a potential cold.

His mother expected he was sick. His sister was diagnosed earlier in the week with the flu and had to stay home from work.

The nurse entered and explained that Ripple's results came back positive, and he was diagnosed with the flu.

"I usually don't get sick," said the 16-year-old Victoria West High School student. "My throat has been bothering me lately."

Health care officials say occurrences of the flu are higher than normal this time of year in clinics and hospitals throughout the Crossroads. Even after patients are diagnosed, doctors still recommend ways to keep the illness from getting worse.

Dr. Joseph Long, of Victoria Community Health Clinic, said he's been seeing more patients than usual. Some of the patients he sees have said they haven't received a flu shot even after getting sick. Still, that doesn't stop him from telling patients to get a shot.

"Even when they get the vaccination, if they do get the flu, they are not as sick as if they didn't get vaccinated," Long said. "We've had a good response when we gave out the flu vaccination."

According to the Texas Department of Health, the Crossroads region, with the exception of Refugio, is in region eight. Specific statistics are not available, but a recent activities report from the department indicate flu activity has been more frequent compared to a year ago. Influenza deaths from 2007 to 2011 indicate there have been 12 flu-related deaths in the region.

Jane Wray, chief medical officer at Community Health Centers of South Central Texas, oversees health clinics in Gonzales, Luling and Seguin. She said that in cities such as Victoria, where the population is smaller than others, flu-like cases take longer than usual to travel to more isolated areas.

"There may be some differences from town to town," she said. "I believe that our cases are rising. The clinics have been able to handle the cases of the flu."

One way to minimize the chances of getting the flu is the flu shot, Wray said, but getting it doesn't protect a person from the flu entirely.

"Some people's bodies work more quickly than others" to rejuvenate, she said.

In pharmacies such as CVS, shortages of the flu vaccine are apparent. CVS representatives responded to questions in a statement.

"The current high demand is unprecedented for this time of year," the statement read. "We are making every effort to resupply our pharmacies and clinics with vaccine as needed and suggest that patients call ahead for the most up-to-date information on availability."

Florence Oladoyin, a nurse practitioner at Crossroads Health Center, has been at the center for almost two years, but has been working in intensive care for 20 years. To all her patients, she recommends they help their own causes, such as washing hands and covering their nose after sneezing.

For the past few days, she said flu cases have been ongoing.

"That why it's important to protect yourself," she said. "I've seen at least 100 people" and "some people have been getting sicker and sicker."

Margo Goode has been one of them and she's an employee at the center. After two weeks fighting the illness, she said she was just getting over the flu.

"You're miserable, almost like a zombie," said Goode, 30. "It's to the point you don't want to do anything."

The flu season will continue in the area until early to late spring, but Oladoyin said she wants people to get well.

"I'm hoping it does get better," she said. The flu is "not an easy thing to get over. It's a tough thing."

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