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Medical professionals seeing spike in flu cases across Central Texas

Medical clinics and hospitals across Central Texas are seeing a spike in flu-like symptoms, and cases around the U.S. have already doubled compared to this time last year. (Photo: Pixabay / MGN Online)

Medical clinics and hospitals across Central Texas are seeing a spike in flu-like symptoms, and cases around the U.S. have already doubled compared to this time last year.

Around 7,000 flu cases have been reported so far this year in the U.S. That’s double the number of cases reported around the same time last year.

"Once people do get it, it spreads like wildfire in daycares, schools, work places,” said Dr. Ryan McCorkle, Emergency Medicine Physician at St. David’s Medical Center.

Last year, during flu season, St. David’s Medical Center saw about a dozen patients with flu-like symptoms daily. However, this year, they are seeing around 30-35 patients coming in with flu-like symptoms each day.

McCorkle says the spike could be linked to this year’s influenza vaccine only being about 10 percent effective.

"The H’s and the Ns are the strains, and you put the most common strain of the H and the N together, and that's your flu shot for the year,” Dr. McCorkle said.

The most common flu strain doctors are seeing this year, is the H3N2 virus.

"Our vaccine, this year, didn't hit the H and N combination that we're seeing the most often this year,” Dr. McCorkle said.

Each year, medical professionals look at Australia to predict the number of flu cases we will see in the U.S. and how effective the vaccination will be. That’s because the flu season in the Southern Hemisphere arrives just before the Northern Hemisphere flu season, and they typically mirror each other.

The effectiveness rate of the flu vaccine in Australia was only about 10 percent this year.

"The mix for the flu shot wasn't as a good as it was in normal years where we were hoping for 50-70 percent," McCorkle said.

Though the vaccine effectiveness rate is down this year, doctors still recommend you get the vaccine as soon as you can.

"It's your only chance of prevention, and 10 percent is better than 0,” Dr. McCorkle said.

Colleen Christian with Austin Public Health says the flu vaccination is typically free if you have insurance and those without insurance can receive a free flu shot through the Austin Public Health Shots for Tots and Big Shots Program. You can schedule an appointment with Austin Public Health by calling 512-972-5520.

"You're less likely to be out for two weeks, you're less likely to get pneumonia, or even be hospitalized things like that,” Christian said.

Flu season typically lasts until late Spring, but cases start to peak after Christmas, so health experts recommend you wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.

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