Tuesday, December 16, 2014

As Flu Ramps Up, Texas Physicians Recommend Vaccination

Flu season typically peaks during the winter months. This year is no different. Physicians are now seeing more patients with the flu, or influenza. Texas physicians want to remind everyone that your best defense is getting vaccinated.

Erica Swegler, MD, an Austin family physician and member of Texas Medical Association’s (TMA’s) Be Wise — ImmunizeSM Physician Advisory Panel, said her office has had a recent increase in patients with flu and flu-type illness. “We’re seeing both types of flu virus, the A and B strains,” she said.

The Texas Department of State Health Services also reports increasing cases of flu-like symptoms and flu diagnoses each week.

The H3N2 virus that physicians are seeing, referred to as an A strain, typically signals a severe flu season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This could indicate a “worse-than-usual” season.

An annual flu vaccination is recommended for anyone 6 months of age and older. It’s not too late to get a flu vaccination, as cases usually increase during the holidays and into the new year.

“As long as flu viruses are spreading and causing people to get sick, a flu vaccination is still recommended,” said Dr. Swegler. “And even if the vaccine doesn’t target all the strains circulating, it provides some protection.”

Influenza can be a serious, even fatal, illness. Influenza can be especially harmful to older people, young children, people with chronic medical conditions, and pregnant women. A bonus for pregnant women who get vaccinated: The vaccine protects the mother and her unborn baby — even after the baby is born, up to 6 months of age.

“Some people are more vulnerable to catching the flu because they have certain medical conditions that prohibit them from getting vaccinated,” said Ernest Buck, MD, Corpus Christi, chair of TMA’s Council on Health Promotion. “Vaccinating healthy family members who go to daycare, school, or work every day prevents them from bringing flu home to aging or frail family members who might not handle the illness well.”

CDC says most healthy adults can infect other people a day before they have symptoms and for as many as five to seven days after they become sick. Children may pass the virus even longer — for more than seven days.

Check with your doctor if you have questions about which flu vaccine is right for you or other questions. And call your doctor if you have any symptoms of the flu — early treatment will help most people recover more quickly and can prevent the flu if you have been exposed recently.

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