Central Texas emergency room doctors confirm CDC early flu findings

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by JIM BERGAMO / KVUE News and photojournalist JOHN GUSKY

Bio | Email | Follow: @JimB_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on December 4, 2012 at 5:54 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 7 at 5:06 PM

AUSTIN -- Flu season is off to a surprisingly early start in Texas. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports Texas is among the states seeing a significant increase in influenza cases.  Central Texas hospital emergency room physicians KVUE talked to not only confirm the CDC report, but they agree on the last time it was this bad.

"We're seeing tremendous volumes of respiratory patients this past month and in November," said Pat Crocker, M.D., the chief of emergency medicine at Dell Children's Medical Center. "In fact, in November, we saw almost as many patients as we did during the H1N1 epidemic."  

"The last time that I remember flu this early was back in 2009 when we saw a lot of the H1N1 or the Swine Flu," said Ross Tobleman, the emergency department medical director at Scott & White Healthcare in Round Rock. "We saw a very early and a very active flu season that year. Obviously this year it's concerning because we are seeing that early uptick."

Doctors tell KVUE there are a variety of flues, and they are cyclical. However they say they usually see the most flu cases in January and February when people are more likely to remain indoors due to weather.  

"Flu requires close contact to transmit from one patient to another," said Tobleman. "That's when you typically see it is in the late winter months. What's really surprising is (our) weather has been so nice,  and people have been out about. You wouldn't normally see that much transmission of the flu this time in the year."

Dell Children's Medical Center is seeing an 80 percent increase in respiratory illnesses in the past month -- the most prevalent being bronchiolitis.

"Bronchiolitis is a more severe disease in children," said Crocker. "We certainly see more children under two presenting with bronchiolitis. It causes actual inflammation in the lungs, so it's different than the usual viruses mainly in the nose and throat. These children can get very sick."

Doctors tell KVUE the good news coming from this early flu outbreak is that it appears the vaccination in this year's flu shot is proving to be extremely effective both in Texas and nationwide. They say it's not to late to get a flu shot if you have not gotten one already. Also, because flu is spread by droplets or touch, they stress you cover your cough, wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face, nose or eyes.  

Dr. April Calderon from Scott & White's Round Rock West Clinic talked to KVUE.com's Rebekah Hood about what kind of flu season we're expecting, flu mist versus flu shots, where vaccinations are available and much more. Click the here for more information.

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