Walk-in clinic diagnosis its first flu case of season

JR Ortega By JR Ortega

Nov. 1, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Updated Nov. 2, 2010 at 6:02 a.m.

When Dr. Sanjeev Bhatia diagnosed his first case of flu for the season last week, he knew the months ahead were about to get busy.

Flu season for the U.S. usually kicks up between November and February, but can happen anytime of the year, said Bhatia, a physician at Crossroads Health Center.

"Each one is different. Each year is different," he said.

Last year, the H1N1 pandemic caused worry across the world.

The influenza strain claimed anywhere from 8,000 to 18,000 lives worldwide between April 2009 to April, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The Victoria County Health Department does not keep statistics on the seasonal flu so there is no telling if Bhatia's patient is the first in the county, said Dr. Bain Cate, the county-city health director.

"With more parents having their children immunized with flu vaccine this year, due to the improved availability, we won't be seeing any severe flu seasons ever again," he said.

Thousands of doses have been administered to children in the county, Cate added.

The only way the flu season may become more severe is if a new strain comes in mid-season, he said.

Flu vaccinations being administered at many doctors' offices protect against H1N1, influenza type B, which is more mild than the type A, and H3N2, a subtype of type A.

Receiving a flu shot is important because the flu shot doesn't only protect the person who receives it, but others around them, Bhatia said.

Older people and people with weak immune systems are hit hardest by the flu, he said.

"If someone is immunocompromised, then the effectiveness of the shot is lowered," he said.

Bhatia, who has been in Victoria for seven years, said at the peak of the season, the walk-in clinic sees about 50 patients a day, and about 10 to 15 will test positive for the flu.

"Anybody can get the flu," he said.



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