Rise in reported flu cases across Central Texas


by JIM BERGAMO / KVUE News and photojournalist JOHN GUSKY

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Posted on January 2, 2013 at 7:07 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 2 at 7:33 PM

Central Texas health care systems are reporting a rapid rise in flu cases.

58-year-old Eva Martinez of Austin has never had a flu shot.

"I hardly ever get sick," Martinez said.

Until now.

"This time it's really knocked me down," said Martinez. "I can't do anything. I've been in bed for the last seven days. I talked to a niece yesterday and she said, 'Granny you need to go to the doctor.'"

Doctors who sees patients at the Scott & White Urgent Care office in Round Rock say initially respiratory illnesses other than flu were taking up most of her time.

"Now we're seeing an increase in the last two weeks of the influenza virus," said Yoon Sin Kim, M.D., Scott & White Health care. "Particularly influenza B is a little higher right now."

In fact, Scott & White's emergency room in Round Rock reported this past Sunday was its busiest day ever. Similar situations are playing out in health care systems across Central Texas.

"Our ER's are all busy," said Jim Donavan, M.D., chief medical officer St. David's Georgetown. "We're seeing 10 to 15 more patients than we usually do and the majority of those are flu-like illnesses."

Doctors say most of the patients testing positive for flu had not been vaccinated. Still doctors caution a flu shot does not always prevent someone from getting the flu.

"It takes about 4 to 6 weeks for the vaccine to take effect," said Donovan. "For those people who were immunized late, they may get the flu despite having the vaccine just based on the time period."  

Doctors say that time period and the early onset of flu this season may also play a role in more people getting the flu despite getting a flu shot, simply because their bodies did not have time to develop a resistance.

Doctors say from now until about the first week of March they anticipate seeing a significant amount of flu along with complications that come with flu, such as pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses.