Texas a 'Top 10' flu state

Texas a 'Top 10' flu state

By Glynis Crawford Smith

The Highlander

When is being a “Red State” a bad thing?

That would be when your state is coded red on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) flu activity map.

Texas is one of the 10 states that experienced high influenza-like illness (ILI) during week 50 of the current flu season.

According to records in the week from Dec. 10-16, Texas suffered widespread and increasing incidence of flu activity. No influenza-associated pediatric deaths were reported, but five influenza-associated outbreaks were reported. In addition to flu, the CDC noted other respiratory viruses—especially respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)—were detected in Texas during week 50.

“I definitely agree with the CDC report,” said Dr. Jose Rosillo, a board certified emergency medicine physician who serves as medical director of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Baylor Scott & White-Marble Falls and Llano.

“I work clinically in North Texas as well and compared to (our Hill Country Region) they are seeing more flu,” said Rosillo. “But, compared to recent years, we are seeing more here.

“Some colleagues have seen 10-15 cases of flu-like illnesses per shift.”

After early days of a flu season, little testing is done because ILI receive the same treatment as flu. Luckily, about 80 percent of the cases BS&W is seeing are Type A flu, with respiratory symptoms, runny noses and fever, rather than Type B, with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

By the time someone seeks care at the emergency room, Rosillo says they have followed a spiral that might have been prevented.

“You feel bad. You have a fever. You stop eating and drinking water. Your heart rate goes up. Your temperature shoots up to 103,” he said.

“In the emergency room, we give them Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen and sometimes IV fluids,” Rosillo continued. “Ninety-nine percent feel better right away.”

So the number one take-away for flu season is to stay hydrated, even if you feel ill. If you don't have emergent symptoms such as shortness of breath, you may be able to avoid the ER.

“Drink water or your favorite sports drink,” said Rosillo. “Adults can take Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen. They are safe together.”

Number two on his flu season recommendation list is: don't spread the illness.

“If you are sick, if you have a fever, stay home,” he urged. “It is important to use good hygiene—lots of hand washing—transmission can be avoided.

“Sneeze into your arm. Sneezes travel up to five feet at 100 miles an hour. Flu is spread through the droplets.”

The ER specialist said when his patients leave the hospital he sends them with a mask.

“If you are around children or older people, they are the most likely to catch the flu,” he said. “Wear a mask.”

Haven't had a flu shot? Rosillo's number three tip for flu season is not to hesitate.

“My 100 percent recommendation for the flu shot stands,” he said. “Whenever there is a good match (with the strains in the shot and those in the environment), it is 70-90 percent effective. Immunization is one of our biggest weapons against it.

“And, we need to squash the rumor that people get the flu from the shot. With the flu shot, even with a good match, you still can get the flu. The hope is that the majority of the population will remain healthy.”

One idea that never did pan out in the war against influenza in Rosillo's opinion was Tamiflu, an antiviral medication that people had rushed to the emergency rooms to receive a few years ago.

“It may make you feel worse and costs up to $120,” he said.

As to over-the-counter medications, he says they are fine for coughs and congestion, especially to help you rest. There are even supplements he doesn't discount.

“I would take a supplement like zinc or especially Vitamin C, myself,” he said.

Regular weekly reports on the flu season are posted on www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/index.htm. For now, it is not residents in those states buried in snow and ice who are suffering the most flu. The top 10 are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas.

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