Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

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January 3, 2014

Doctors say getting a flu shot still helpful

Corsicana — The last full week of December, 170 people were tested for the flu in Navarro County, mostly through the hospital, the emergency room and local doctor’s offices.

“It’s flu A is what we’re seeing the most of,” said Emily Carroll, Corsicana Health Department administrator and registered nurse. “The way we monitor it is each doctor’s office or hospital lab submit reports to the health department.”

The trend towards high flu numbers is statewide, Carroll said.

“Usually, the flu peaks about January to February, so we’re seeing a little earlier time of the year for the real peak in the flu,” Carroll said. “That’s why we’re still encouraging people to get flu shots. It’s not too late, and it takes about two weeks for them to be effective.”

According to an alert issued Dec. 20 by the Texas Department of State Health Services, the level of flu-like illnesses in Texas is “high,” with the flu strain H1N1 the most common so far this season.

“Flu is on the rise and causing severe illness in certain people. It is not unexpected this time of year, but it’s a good reminder for people to get vaccinated and stay home if they’re sick,” said Dr. David Lakey, DSHS commissioner. “Flu can be deadly. People who have not been vaccinated should do so now. It’s the best defense we have.”

Flu is a serious disease that kills an average of 23,600 Americans a year, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People over 65, pregnant women, young children and people with chronic health conditions are most at risk for complications, so it’s especially important for them to be vaccinated.

DSHS recommends everyone six months old and older get vaccinated. People should talk to their health care provider about the best type of flu vaccine for them. A nasal spray version is available for healthy people ages 2 to 49 who are not pregnant, and a high-dose vaccine is approved for people 65 and older.

In Dallas County, three people have died from the flu, and another four died in South Texas in early December, according to the Associated Press.

The DSHS is recommending doctors prescribe anti-viral medications like Tamiflu or Relenza for hospital patients who show bad flu symptoms, even if their rapid-flu tests come back negative.

Adult deaths from flu don’t have to be reported to the state, so the state doesn’t keep those kinds of statistics, but flu deaths among children are required to be reported. There’s been one pediatric death this season, a 17-year-old from the Houston area, according to the DSHS.

Most of the confirmed cases in Navarro County have been Type A, which includes H1N1 and H3N2, according to Carroll.

This year’s vaccine protects against three strains of flu, Types A including H1N1, H3N2, and type B, according to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Ga. This season, vaccines are also available that protect against four strains of flu, by adding a second Type B.

Vaccines are still easily available at local doctor’s offices, pharmacies and at the health department.

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