Flu cases flood Crossroads doctors' offices

Elena Watts By Elena Watts

Dec. 22, 2013 at 6:22 a.m.
Updated Dec. 23, 2013 at 6:23 a.m.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports widespread influenza activity in Texas - and Victoria County is no exception.

"We have experienced an unusually high number of cases, comparable to the 2009 H1N1 outbreak," said Dr. John McNeill, owner and physician of Twin Fountains Walk-In Health Clinics. "It's safe to assume that the flu shot is working well and that not many people have had it."

Influenza Types A and B have been reported in the county, and the H1N1 strain, which is included in the vaccine, is probably the most common, said Dr. Bain Cate, director of the Victoria City-County Health Department.

"People procrastinate, but there is no good reason - except an allergy to the vaccine's ingredients - to wait," Cate said.

On Friday alone, McNeill confirmed 58 cases of Type A influenza at his two clinics, and the virus does not typically peak until January at the earliest.

Of the 33 who tested positive at one clinic, only one had the influenza vaccine, he said.

"I've seen almost 200 confirmed cases in the last three days," McNeill said. "We have to call around to different pharmacies because Tamiflu is in short supply."

Last week, about five patients per day visited the Dr. Pattie Dodson Public Health Center with flu-like symptoms, said Shana Barrett-Garcia, a medical assistant. Four of those tested positive for the flu.

"We prescribe Tamiflu if it's caught in the first 48 hours," Barrett-Garcia said. "But it's very expensive, and most of our patients don't have insurance."

The flu can last for two weeks, and Tamiflu knocks the symptoms down more quickly, she said.

Without Tamiflu, McNeill suggests patients stay well-hydrated, take Tylenol or Motrin to control fever and body aches and see a doctor if symptoms worsen.

"One patient with the flu went by ambulance to the hospital today," McNeill said.

Barrett-Garcia suggests those with the flu stay home and away from others.

"During the holidays, don't take infants, toddlers or the elderly around people who are sick because they get it worst," Barrett-Garcia said.

Higher-than-normal rates of severe influenza and deaths in Montgomery County pushed the Texas Department of State Health Services to issue a memo Friday, Cate said.

Residents, ages 40 to 65, have been very sick with the flu, and some have even died, Cate said. None of them had the influenza vaccine.

"The critical point is that we don't want this to happen in Victoria County," Cate said. "Everyone who has put off the flu shot needs to get it, whether at the doctor's office, pharmacy or the public health center."



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