Flu season is far from over; If you fall ill, act fast
TYLER, TX (KLTV) -
State health officials are now reporting at least 10 flu deaths in our area. So far, health officials say there have been three flu deaths in Angelina County, five deaths in Gregg County, one flu death in Nacogdoches County, as well as one death in Smith County.
However, KLTV is reporting 11 deaths, as Trinity Mother Frances Health System reported a death last week that was not included in the state's numbers. These flu fatality numbers are voluntarily reported by local hospitals because the state is not required keep track of adult flu deaths.
Health officials say the peak of flu season may not be here yet. According to flu.gov, flu generally starts in fall and peaks in January or even February. That means there's still time to protect yourself. Doctors say typically older people are struck with the flu, but right now that's not the case in East Texas or across the country, so East Texans of all ages might want to take precautions to prevent getting sick.
"This year, particularly, young working-age adults 20-50 have been getting the flu more seriously and at a higher rate, and there have been some fatalities in that age range," explains Dr. Paul McGaha, the regional director for the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Hospital officials have been keeping track of how many patients have tested positive for the flu since December.
This flu season, East Texas Medical Center in Tyler has seen 195 patients test positive for some strain of the flu. Trinity Mother Frances Health System has seen a total of 358 patients test positive at their clinics throughout East Texas, and Good Shepherd Medical center in Longview has had 329 patients test positive for the flu.
"If you get the real flu... you're really sick for two weeks. You're really really miserable," says Dr. Richard Wallace of UT Health Northeast.
Dr. Wallace says, if you think you're coming down with the flu, there's no reason to tough it out. Prescription drugs, like Tamiflu, are available, but are only effective if they're taken early.
"They have to be taken within the first two days of clinical illness. It's the body's reaction to the virus that's making you sick, and you can't change that," explains Wallace.
However, what you can do is take simple steps to protect yourself from the flu now. Doctors say it is not too late to get a flu shot, and despite flu myths, getting the shot will not give you the flu. Health officials also add that as much as we may be tired of hearing it, washing your hands, coughing into your sleeve and staying home if you have a fever will help stop the spread of the flu.