Hospitals continue to witness rising flu cases in Victoria

Elena Watts By Elena Watts

Jan. 14, 2014 at 11:01 p.m.
Updated Jan. 14, 2014 at 7:15 p.m.

Lilo Arguellez, 41, program director for Magic 95.9 FM in Victoria, was diagnosed Jan. 7 with the H1N1 flu strain in the emergency room of Citizens Medical Center.

"We went home with Tamiflu, an inhaler and a few other medications," said his wife, Krissey Arguellez, 43. "The flu turned into bronchitis, and that turned into pneumonia."

The hospital admitted Arguellez on Saturday. He is expected to stay at least the rest of the week, his wife said.

"We're at that point where it could go either way," Arguellez said. "If he does not respond to treatment, he could end up on life support."

Dr. Daniel Cano, hospitalist medical director for Citizens Medical Center, suggested that patients get the flu shot.

"Most of the patients I see with the flu or complications of the flu were not vaccinated," he said.

Once infected, Tamiflu can lessen symptoms and shorten the duration of the virus if caught within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms, Cano said.

Over-the-counter medicines can help patients feel better, but they do not prevent the development of pneumonia, he said. Patients should get plenty of fluids and rest and watch their symptoms closely.

"Shortness of breath and feeling sicker could mean the patient is developing pneumonia complications, and he might need a chest X-ray," Cano said.

Citizens Medical Center is currently treating six flu patients in-house, according to an email from Shannon Spree, marketing coordinator for the hospital.

Since Dec. 1, 2013, 189 patients have tested positive for the flu at Citizens Medical Center, Spree wrote. That number does not include flu-like cases that tested negative.

Joe Galvan Jr., 42, died Jan. 2 of sepsis, which likely developed from pneumonia. The retired Marine tested negative for the flu, as did his brother, who also developed pneumonia.

"They treated us for the flu anyway because there are so many false negatives," said his brother, Allen Galvan, 35.

The rapid diagnostic test for flu, especially the H1N1 strain, is not as reliable as some of the other options that take longer, said Christine Mann, press officer for the Texas Department of State Health Services.

"We urge clinicians to treat severely ill patients at hospitals with antivirals before the test results come back," Mann said.

DeTar Healthcare System is also seeing an increase in emergency room visits and admissions among people with flu-like symptoms.

"Influenza can be severe, and an annual vaccination is the best tool for flu prevention," wrote Judith Barefield, marketing director for DeTar Healthcare System, in an email.

The hospital advises that everyone at least 6 months old get an annual flu shot, particularly those who are at high risk of flu complications, Barefield wrote.

People at high risk for developing serious complications include children younger than 5, adults older than 65, pregnant women and individuals with medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes and chronic lung disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not know exactly how many people die of seasonal flu each year, according to the CDC website.

State law does not require that adult flu deaths be reported, Mann said. The law only requires that deaths from flu or complications of flu be reported for people 18 and younger.

Five deaths, all of them children, have been reported statewide this flu season. None occurred in Victoria's reporting region, she said.



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