Flu season hits area hard, doctors say

Keldy  Ortiz

Dec. 4, 2012 at 6:04 a.m.
Updated Dec. 5, 2012 at 6:05 a.m.

Flu season has arrived in Victoria, and it's slamming the community harder than in years past.

"This has been the most severe it has been over the last five years," said Sanjeev Bhatia, owner and doctor at Crossroads Health Center. "Some have been sick enough to be hospitalized. We've been swamped with flu patients since last week."

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this week that several Southern states including Texas should expect the flu season to be hitting harder and earlier than in previous years. Health facilities in Victoria already have seen an increase in patients for more than a week.

The increased number of people with the flu have been among children and elderly, whose bodies are not able to withstand the virus. Bhatia said changes in weather can play a role in people getting sick. He plans to extend hours at the facility to care for more patients.

Preventive methods have been taken to prepare for the number of patients who may need treatment. The problem, said Dr. Taylor Starkey of Texas Health Center, is that the hard part is tracking when the flu arrives.

"Once the flu arrives in a city, it spreads," Starkey said. "The problem is that we don't know when. There is no way to prepare when people get the flu. You can write them a prescription. The problem is that they have to take that right away."

At Citizens Medical Center, Kyle Kincaid, an emergency nurse practitioner, said more patients are likely to visit the hospital this season compared to last year. Some of Kincaid's patients have been school-aged and have missed school.

"We try to identify the kids that are ill to get them out of school," said Kincaid. "If people have flu-like symptoms, they should seek medical attention early on."

At Victoria Independent School District, flu data is not collected, said Diane Boyett, director of communications. Boyett said that this time of year is normal for students to be out. She explained that between late October and January are the months students are reportedly out of school because of sickness.

"It is typical that we have students absent due to increases of stomach viruses, allergies and cold," Boyett said.

While health professionals in the area expect the number of flu patients to be higher than usual, John McNeill, a physician and medical director at Twin Fountains Medical, said the flu season will not be like the H1N1 epidemic.

McNeill said that when the H1N1 outbreak occurred in 2009, no one had been vaccinated because the virus was not known. After the outbreak, people understood more about that kind of virus and have prepared in advance.

"That was a specific virus that no one was vaccinated for so everybody got it," McNeill said about H1N1. "The best way to prevent a flu is getting a flu vaccine."

McNeill also said he understands some people may be hesitant about getting the flu shot. The reason, he said, is fear of getting sick from the vaccination. He dismissed those thoughts and advised people to seek getting the shot to prevent further complications.

"People die from the flu every year," McNeill said, "But it's preventable with a flu shot."



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