Flu ravages the State of Texas!
SAN ANGELO, TX -- On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta issued a Special Health Alert for the State of Texas regarding the high incidence of influenza.
How bad is it in San Angelo?
Mike Campbell has been CEO of La Esperanza for 13 years and for him this flu season is one that stands out.
“Last Saturday, Dec. 23rd, the Clinic actually had to close due to not having enough well practitioners to serve patients.”
“That’s a rare occurrence, and it prevents us from seeing those who are really sick, which is what we want to do.”
“And incidence of strep throat is running just about as high as the flu,” said Campbell.
From 2016 to this year, there has been a 340% increase in the number of confirmed flu cases at La Esperanza. These numbers are likely the same for other medical facilities in town, but numbers were not available.
Even with that remarkable increase, “many more people don’t come in for testing, but just take care of it on their own. That means that the actual number of cases is probably much higher.” said Campbell.
Incidence of flu is recorded from Dec. 1 to Sept. 30. Flu season usually peaks in January and February and by March is on the decline.
“When the flu is as prevalent as it is now,” said Campbell, “it’s hard to avoid. Even if you’ve had your flu shot, when you’re exposed over and over again your chances of getting it increases.”
Last year, La Esperanza, inoculated 1,040 people for flu. This year, 1,250 people were inoculated.
“But,” said Campbell, “in any one year the flu can mutate more than once. The strain that we’re seeing right now—Type A, H3N2—could be replaced by another strain at any time, which translates to more complications and more hospitalizations.”
The CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) use a scientific process that basically amounts to an educated guess as to what flu strain might be prevalent, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves the composition of the vaccine every year.
Lara Anton, Press Officer, Texas Department of State Health Services provided information on the incident of flu statewide.
“Of reported tests results for influenza in the 2015 – 2016 periods, 8.7% were positive for flu. So far this year, in the state of Texas, more than 50% of all tests for flu were positive.” said Anton.
According to Anton, “There are four levels of outbreak the CDC uses to describe flu trends: Sporadic, meaning there are a few cases or outbreaks here and there; Local, referring to an outbreak that is concentrated in one area, and Regional, meaning there is a quadrant of the state showing an outbreak.”
“Texas has the highest category of outbreak—widespread.”
There are precautions that can be taken to at least give you a fighting chance against contracting the flu.
First and foremost, since repeated exposure increases the chance of getting flu, once diagnosed, employees should not come to work ill. Fever usually indicates that someone is contagious, and employees should stay home for another 24 hours after the fever is gone.
Masks help, especially if someone in your home has flu or you’re the caretaker of someone with flu.
Coughing into a sleeve or a Kleenex goes a long way toward keeping others free from germs, and liquid hand sanitizers are still a good precautionary habit.
Children and people with a weakened immune system are particularly at risk for much tougher cases of the flu.
And finally, wash your hands!